Its been a long time since Manchester United fans saw their side at the top of the table, but a second half Paul Pogba volley against Burnley saw them move three points clear of Champions Liverpool at the summit.
Burnley, as they so often do, looked to establish their aerial dominance early on, with the game not really being allowed to settle in the entirety of the goalless first half.
There was however plenty of incidents for VAR to pore over, with two potential red cards in one incident ultimately ending in a yellow card for Luke Shaw, while the Video Assistant also decided not to overturn a disallowed Harry Maguire header, despite there looking to have been minimal contact with Erik Pieters.
Manchester United looked far more settled in the second half as Burnley looked more content to sit back, and in the 71st minute they took the lead. Marcus Rashford – who had had a relatively quiet evening – played a cross towards the edge of the box which was met by the impressive Paul Pogba who volleyed through the ball and past Nick Pope, his effort taking a slight deflection on the way in.
The Red Devils spurned a number of chances to extend the lead, while the Clarets were unable to to draw level with a late spell of pressure, though ultimately failed to get any of their shots on target.
The result moved Manchester United three points clear at the top of the Premier League for the first time, at this stage of the season, since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer understandably delighted.
Man Utd are unbeaten in 11 Premier League games, the longest ongoing run in the competition:
Phenomenal. 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/eazKhTK1y7
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 12, 2021
“When you get three points in the Premier League it makes you smile,” he told Sky Sports. “It was a hard-fought three points, it always is up here.”
Asked about his half-time team talk after what was a scrappy and hard fought first half, the Norwegian said: “You’ve got to calm them down at half-time because emotions are running high because they disagree with the things that happen out there so we have to take back control and we played really well in the second half and we held out at the end.
“Burnley are so well organised and there’s not many spaces but we did look at some of them – great cross for the goal, very well executed finish. We could’ve had a few more to calm the nerves but we did it the hard way.”
Paul Pogba put in an impressive and influential display in the heart of the United midfield, and despite having expressed his desire to leave, Solskjaer insisted the Frenchman is still an important player for his side.
🍾Man of the Match🍾: @ManUtd's Paul Pogba
𝗠𝗼𝘀𝘁 passes completed
𝗠𝗼𝘀𝘁 aerials won
𝗠𝗼𝘀𝘁 chances created
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 12, 2021
“I’ve always said Paul [Pogba] is a big player for us,” he said. “He’s a good character in the dressing room, he’s someone the lads look to, he’s a world champion. We’re seeing the best of Paul at the moment – he’s been injured and he’s had Covid so it’s natural to need to get back to fitness after that.”
Next up for United is what is set to be a hugely intriguing fixture against bitter rivals Liverpool, who were the last team to beat Solskjaer’s side in a Premier League away game last January.
“Of course we know we’re going to the champions they’ve had an unbelievable three seasons so we’re ready for it. But we’re ready and we’re excited, we’re hungry for it and it’s a test of character and quality again. We’re in a good position going into it.”