Manchester United 3 Burnley 1
Manchester United are ensuring Manchester City feel their breath on their necks as they bid to claim a third title in four years. This victory closes the gap to eight points and eyes now turn to Wednesday when Pep Guardiola’s side are at Aston Villa.
With six games left the chance remains remote that City will perform a Devon Loch but at this juncture United are the same margin behind after 32 matches as in April 2012 when roles were reversed and Roberto Mancini’s side overtook Alex Ferguson’s team on the final day via goal difference, courtesy of Sergio Aguero’s 94th-minute winner against Queens Park Rangers.
For this chance to keep dreaming United have Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani to thank whose goals on 83 and 93 minutes sealed a late win. At half-time here Burnley had been as attritional as any brochure for Sean Dyche’s side might say.
Yet though United were slicker the visitors also moved forward with a pace and control that is not always associated with them. In Chris Wood they had a No 9 who was hunting for a third goal in three visits and gave Dean Henderson a fright with the clock not yet at 20 seconds in a clownish moment for the No 1.
Matthew Lowton launched a long diagonal from his own half, and Henderson ran 10 yards from his line to punch clear only to be beaten to the ball by Wood, who headed in. This was ruled offside so Henderson escaped but this was no way to calm his defence.
The keeper’s teammates responded by taking the ball to the other end and threatening Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s goal. Marcus Rashford performed a drag-back and swept the ball right to Aaron Wan-Bissaka. As Greenwood yelled for a pass Scott McTominay raced on to the right-back’s delivery and saw his shot blocked.
This was good from United: it showed an intent that was evident when another Wan-Bissaka ball found Paul Pogba who headed and Peacock-Farrell tipped around his right post. With warm sunshine lighting the turf, Burnley showed next. Wood turned inside from the left and unloaded at Henderson, who was grateful to take this cleanly low down.
Rashford – excellent throughout – was making runs in behind that Luke Shaw and Greenwood were either seeing too late or not at all. One of these missed opportunities caused the No 10 to let go a loud expletive.
Burnley, buoyed by Arsenal’s late equaliser against Fulham, could not match United for quality – a Rashford jink-and-shot from an angle illustrated this. Shaw’s subsequent corner was headed over by Pogba which meant an entertaining contest remained scoreless. As did the chance column until a lightning break as the break neared.
Rashford tapped a pass to Pogba on the right and darted for a return that splayed Burnley. His cross was aimed at Bruno Fernandes and Greenwood and found neither. But, moments later, Rashford hit a skidding ball in from the same flank past Peacock-Farrell only for Greenwood to miss connecting into an open net.
Solskjaer put on Edinson Cavani for Fred for the second half in a positive move that had the striker going to No 9, Rashford wide left, and Pogba into midfield. It reaped a rich dividend as the players matched their manager’s positivity by tearing through Burnley to score.
Rashford nutmegged Lowton, dashed down the left, and pinged in a cross to Fernandes. He dummied and there was Greenwood to beat Peacock-Farrell. Yet delight for United soon turned to despair.
This came straight from the Route One manual. Ashley Westwood curved a corner over from the left and first Wan-Bissaka lost James Tarkowski, then Maguire could not hold the centre-back off, and his header went in, to Henderson’s left. This added to the catalogue of strikes allowed from set pieces by Solskjaer’s men, who had to shake themselves off and seek to breach Burnley again.
In Rashford they had a man intent on doing this alone. One touch that had the ball squirming under his boot then releasing past the banked yellow-shirted defence had those inside the stadium gasping. His control let him down, though, when Maguire fired a pass into him in front of Peacock-Farrell, the ball squeezing away.
The keeper next made a sharp save low to his right from a Fernandes header but now came Greenwood’s intervention – scoring via a deflection off Jack Cork – and that of Cavani, who rounded off a quick break, to leave City something to ponder, at least. – Guardian