Burnley held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw in the Premier League on Saturday, as Louis Van Gaal failed once more to achieve his first victory in a competitive match as manager of the Old Trafford side. It was hardly an onslaught from United that Burnley just about managed to hold off, but what were the biggest talking points from the game?
One word highlights yesterday’s match and this season’s back line for Manchester United; sloppy. Unfortunately with the formation LVG seems to believe in, it leaves the back line thin when any mistakes are made or opposition are attacking. For Danny Ings the gaps were open for him to run into, Blackett leaving his line and coming higher up the field pulled Evans and Valencia across making the back line consistently vulnerable. Of course this is not helped when Fletcher does not track back. Johnny Evans again showed that he should not be part of this team with another very poor performance similar to that against MK Dons. Bad back passes, missed tackles and leaving his position were some of the reasons that Burnley dominated the first half shots. The two wing backs of Young and Valencia couldn’t control the play and communicated with the back line, as Arfield highlighted, making dangerous runs and goal scoring opportunities; showing that all three are not the players they once were. Hopeless long balls all game from Blackett and Evans showed they do not understand the formation nor their positions.
On the other hand, David De Gea and Phil Jones had very good games again. Last season, the Spaniard didn’t communicate and control his back line enough, but today’s performance showed he is a changed man. Mopping up mistakes with impressive saves, making himself big in front of goal, a couple of last ditch tackles and constant communication with Phil Jones meant, for me that he was one of three players that performed well today. Another of those players was Phil Jones. For the past few seasons i have stood by my view that he will be the future of this back line and today was another shinning display! He controlled the back line as much as possible with the players he has, but sorted there mistakes out with his agility and tackle accuracy which he was not renowned for.
Luckily Rojo will be eligible to play soon and Smalling will be returning to both partner Jones in what hopefully can be a mistake free back line. Blind who signed today will be able to take the place of Young until Shaw returns.
Although LVG is determined to carry on with the 3-5-2 set up, today’s game showed again that for the Premier league it does not work. The back line is vulnerable to counter attacks due to thinness and gaps behind trailing wing backs as was highlighted in the previous point. Long balls are used as midfielders and other options aren’t quickly available to pass too. Pushes players into positions they are uncomfortable with mainly in the centre of the park and creates less options down the wing, which has been Man United’s bread and butter for past seasons. Valencia didn’t receive much help from Di Maria who should have been pushing wide into his more natural position. Fletcher again didn’t come back enough to help give options. Unfortunately, though this formation did work for Holland during the World Cup, for Man United it will not work with the players he has.
Another lack-luster midfield performance from Man United. Mata still hasn’t found his form and showed against Burnley he couldn’t produce the through balls and creativity he is praised for. Burnley’s players took full advantage of this and dominated in the centre. Jones had an incredible game for Burnley shutting out paces and stopping runs and understandably got man of the match for his control of the game, which is a skill apparently missing from Fletcher.
Admittedly for LVG he is missing Herrera and Carrick who will be starters when they return to fitness and has Blind joining the team to fill that defensive midfield position. Looking to Anderson for inspiration in the centre showed the lack of depth Van Gaal has available to him.
4. Di Maria
The new £60 million pound signing showed flashes of his true quality, with a few darting runs and searching passes to Van Persie which required Tom Heaton to produce a fine save. Ultimately the formation does not allow DI Maria to play in that right sided position he is well known for tearing defenses apart. In the centre, he can’t attack defences with his pace and agility. He looked like part of the team from the start and once comfortable with the change to the league should well be the flair player we are missing in the team.
Though I do think Burnley will struggle with staying up this season, they showed a great performance today. If Vokes partnered Ings up front, it could well have been a different result for them. With the likes of Jones, Duff, Shackell, and Taylor they controlled the midfield. Sean Dyche set up his team very well and will be, I am sure slightly disappointed to walk away with only one point.
Though we shouldn’t rely on penalties against a relegation fighting team, the two decisions from the referee were very debatable. For the First Young’s reputation lost us the obvious penalty. When a player pushes with his arm instead of his shoulder it is a foul. The second decision was even worse as it was an obvious hand ball and penalty.
Thankfully the international break is next week and allows Van Gaal’s players to return from injury and new signings can fill his desired starting XI. Ideally after the international break I would like to see a 3-1-2-2-2 formation. A back three of Smalling, Rojo and Jones with Blind occupying the defensive midfield position and in front of him Mata and Di Maria. Shaw and Valencia could be the wing backs hopefully pushing Rooney and Van Persie forwards into dangerous areas. With any luck, against QPR Manchester United can pick up the three points the need to start to a run of from and build some much needed confidence.
What do you think were the biggest issues to arise from the Premier League match between Burnley and Manchester United? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @TBRFootball .