And so, we go again.
Six days after our calamitous result at Old Trafford, we travel to Turf Moor to take on a Burnley side who themselves are struggling to match their form of last season thus far.
There were of course a few positives from Monday’s game, as I mentioned in my review. The reinvigorated Luke Shaw again gave his all, and in the first half our attacking intent was pleasant to see. That being said, if United plan on stopping the rot this weekend, two things in particular need to be sorted out: our chance conversion and our dreadful state of defence.
We certainly had our chances in the opening 45 minutes, but Romelu Lukaku was missing his shooting boots, and it was his first half miss after latching onto a backpass that cost us the most. I’d like to see both Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez start on Sunday afternoon, as we need more players on the pitch who have the ability to be lethal when through on goal.
As for the defence, despite his error for the third goal, I thought Chris Smalling did well for the most part, as he was able to clear up any and all Tottenham attempts in the opening 45. His performance was the most composed one of our centre backs has been since about January, so I’d like to see him start again at the heart of the defence.
Monday also saw us attempt to put a centre midfielder into the back three, although oddly it was Ander Herrera who took up the role, instead of the more obvious choice in Nemanja Matic. If Jose Mourinho is to attempt this system again, I think Matic would slot into the back three much easier, given his time as a centre back earlier in his career.
As I mentioned earlier, Burnley are on a bit of a torrid run themselves, having picked up just the one point from their opening three league games. In addition, they conceded 10 goals in three games (3 against Watford, 4 at 3 at Olympiakos and 4 at Fulham), which is surprising to see considering their incredible defensive performances last season.
Much like United, Burnley failed to add a sufficient amount of talent in the transfer window. Their three signings (Joe Hart, Ben Gibson and Matej Vydra) were all very good pickups for the Clarets, but they really did need more if they planned on going further in the Europa League, as well as carrying on their good form from last season.
However, in their second leg tie against Olympiakos, Burnley were extremely unlucky not to come away with the victory, as they showed a lot of hunger going forward but somehow weren’t able to break down the Greek side’s barricade until the 86th minute, when the tie was already settled. Despite their early exit from their European odyssey, I expect this performance to give the Clarets some confidence heading into Sunday’s game that they can pile more pressure on a United side that is already at risk of collapsing under it.
I’ve gone for victories in my last two predictions (they sure turned out well), but having seen the desire Burnley showed on Thursday night, I’m going for a 2-2 draw in this one. We’ve seen that both sides are vulnerable at the back so far in this campaign, and I think this Sunday will be no different from their previous performances. For once, I hope my prediction is proved wrong, but only time will tell.
Predicted United Line-Up: De Gea; Smalling, Matic, Lindelof; Valencia, Pogba, Fred, Shaw; Rashford, Lukaku, Sanchez.
Predicted Burnley Line-Up: Hart; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward; Lennon, Cork, Hendrick, Taylor; Vydra; Wood.