Reaction and Player Ratings : Burnley 1-1 Manchester United

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Manchester United took a first half lead and had two goals disallowed and yet still failed to win against a Burnley team rooted in a relegation battle.

Ralf Rangnick dropped Cristiano Ronaldo but was left to call on him when a decent first half performance gave way to a progressively abysmal second.

Burnley, with one win all season, were playing their 5000th game – and Turf Moor has been the venue for many classic visits of Manchester United in the past.

United felt they’d struck the first blow after twelve minutes – Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick was excellent, and so was Raphael Varane’s header as it went in – but the Frenchman’s first goal for the club was ruled out due to Maguire being in an offside position when the kick was taken, and blocking off a run, thus interfering with play.

Five minutes later, the visitors had a goal that did count – Fernandes, Rashford and Shaw were involved, the latter pulling the ball back from the touchline for Pogba, fifteen yards on, to strike – there was still work to do with the finish, but it was an excellent effort that flew into the top corner.

In the 21st minute, Rashford’s cross was deflected into his own net by Ben Mee – but Pogba was deemed to have fouled in the build up.

Rangnick’s team did have the control of the game – Pope was called into action to deny Cavani magnificently in the 33rd minute, and then again to save from Rashford in the 40th.

So far so good – but United’s issue is sometimes in putting games like this to bed. They remain susceptible to maybe an errant Maguire pass, or at the mercy of being careless at offensive set-pieces – both of which happened just before the break, a reminder of the need for a higher level of concentration that United either simply don’t possess or having matured into.

And less than two minutes into the second half that fear came true – Maguire, having been beaten by the cumbersome Weghorst, was then beaten by Rodriguez, who fired past De Gea with Burnley’s first shot on target of the game.

Maguire was then booked as Weghorst turned him on the halfway line; United were as sloppy in the second half as they had seemed fluid for most of the first. Rangnick responded by bringing on Cristiano Ronaldo for Cavani with a quarter of the game left.

Rangnick’s team had moments – Varane had a flick deflected away by Mee after good work by Rashford, and Ronaldo headed over from the resultant corner.

In the last minute, Ronaldo had another header over, but the reality is Burnley were never unduly troubled to lose the point they’d rescued earlier in the first half.

Solidity is all well and good, but United have short term goals as well as long term ones, and allowing points to slip away as frequently as they are doing is only likely to result in too big a deficit to recover.

Selection / Tactics

Rangnick’s biggest bold call was to drop Ronaldo and though it was dressed up in an excuse for the packed fixture list, the manager did express that the requirement was for a lot of running so that’s why the game suited Cavani. But, isn’t that every game, under this manager? Isn’t that the point? The plot thickens.

The team set up in this new 4-3-3 shape that has given the team an ostensibly secure platform and yet, as we saw against West Ham and against Middlesbrough, security doesn’t necessarily translate into domination. Optimists have tried to talk it up as a step in the right direction, but tonight proof of that improvement was needed.

If United are controlling games with a little more dignity, it’s still not anywhere near enough to feel convincing nor is it a compelling argument that Solskjaer was the problem to the extent a change in manager would result in the required difference. (Let’s be clear – the manager was dismissed, it was the right decision, but events since have made it clear that he was far from the only problem, and that maybe other problems were in more urgent need of repair.)

Is this group of players really allowing the support to believe they require all sorts of compensatory excuses for their failures? With each passing week, the achievement of third and second are looking more like they were achieved more because of Solskjaer and not in spite of him.

Ralf Rangnick didn’t inherit a team fighting relegation; like Solskjaer before him, he took over a team who had finished second in the previous season. To be fair to the players, it did look more like a confidence issue the longer the game went on. The issue is that the supporters are in no mood to indulge it, nor should they. This was not good enough.

Ratings

De Gea 6

Dalot 6

Varane 6

Maguire 4

Shaw 5

Pogba 6

McTominay 7

Fernandes 6

Rashford 6

Cavani 5

Sancho 6

Subs

Ronaldo 5

Lingard

Elanga

Wayne Barton

Wayne is a writer and producer. His numerous books on Manchester United include the family-authorised biography of Jimmy Murphy. He wrote and produced the BT Sport films 'Too Good To Go Down' in 2018, and 'True Genius', in 2021, both adapted from his books of the same name. In 2015 he was described by the Independent as the 'leading writer on Manchester United' and former club chairman Martin Edwards has described him as 'the pre-eminent writer on the club'.

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