A 1-1 draw against Olympiakos this evening wasn’t sufficient to keep Burnley in the Europa League, but the Clarets will take heart from a spirited performance that should see them go into Sunday’s clash with United in confident mood.
The Clarets created sufficient chances to win the tie easily, but profligacy in front of goal let them down, with both Sam Vokes and Jeff Hendrick spurning good chances.
That said, Sean Dyche will be highly encouraged by the performance of 18-year-old academy product Dwight McNeil – the left-sided midfielder made his first start for the club against Olympiakos. McNeil may have played himself into contention for a place in Sunday’s team, with Johan Berg Gudmondsson and Robbie Brady still unfit. Another plus point on the night was the sharpness of new signing Matej Vydra, who came off the bench to score the equaliser on his debut for the Clarets.
Both United and Burnley go into Sunday’s game desperate for a win. If the start of the season has been a concern for Burnley, it is being viewed as a crisis by some in the camp of Sunday’s opponents, who have lost two of their first three Premier League games for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
There have been persistent rumours linking £90million man Paul Pogba with a move to Barcelona, whilst Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho demanded respect from journalists in a characteristic fit of pique, following their home defeat 3-0 to Spurs. Further rumours – though denied – have suggested that Mourinho and United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, have fallen out. Elsewhere, some media gossip has suggested that a defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday could see Mourinho’s tenure at Old Trafford brought to an end.
It provides some tantalising sub-plots to Sunday’s game and from a Burnley perspective this could be a very good time to play United. In terms of predictions my head says a 1-1 draw, but my heart says a memorable 1-0 victory to kick-start the Clarets’ season.
Given the number of changes for Europa League games and Burnley’s injury list, it’s difficult to predict Sunday’s line-up, but I’m going with: Heaton, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, McNeil, Hendrick, Wood.