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man-utd-2-1000x500Jose Mourinho behaved as you’d expect, the tourists left early in silence and the Burnley fans roared their approval as the Clarets won a point in a 0-0 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford in what was another wonderful day for our football club.

I make no apologies for referencing our two former Manchester United players in the title of this report. It was always going to be a special day for them but they were two of the stars who made it a very special day for the Clarets.

Keane, who had a difficult return on our last visit was immense in a back four performance that was exceptional but I don’t think I could even start to find words to describe Tom’s performance in goal.

I’ve seen some good Burnley goalkeepers and I’ve seen some not so good, but this performance from Heaton stands right up there with some of the best I’ve ever seen. For me, once again to compare him with Adam Blacklaw is amazing but Adam’s performance in the 1961 FA Cup 6th round tie at Sheffield Wednesday came to mind, as did Tony Waiters’ efforts at Oxford, also in the FA Cup, in 1971.

Then there was Alan Stevenson at Liverpool, Chris Pearce at Bradford City and Brian Jensen at home against Reading. I saw them all, and others. I know yesterday is fresh in my memory but I really don’t think I’ve ever seen a better goalkeeping performance for Burnley.

What a day. In my match preview I made mention of this being my sixteenth visit to watch us at first team level with five draws and ten defeats in the previous fifteen. I might not be able to report that the wins column has finally started moving but of all the games I’ve seen us play at Old Trafford, this is without doubt one of the most memorable.

We were a little later than expected arriving. That was mainly down to the tram being unable to decide what to do once it arrived at Media City. The doors opened, then closed, then opened, then closed and that went on a number of times before it finally continued its journey to Exchange Quay.

Then it was a case of walking the short distance, past all the stalls selling the half and half scarves with the Aston Villa badges on them and trying to find some home fans intermingled with the tourists.

You might have gathered I’m no United fan, and that is an understatement, but you can see the grandeur of the club with this massive stadium, by far the biggest league ground in England, and unlike the last time, when we played there in midweek, it looked fairly packed.

Burnley came out in all sky blue with one change to the team that had beaten Everton. Much to my surprise, Andre Gray came straight back in after his suspension with Michael Kightly dropping to the bench where he was alongside George Boyd and Ashley Barnes, both returning from injury.

With the handshake between the two managers complete, and it was just a handshake, not the usual embrace, we kicked off attacking the Stretford end but Heaton was soon in action, saving well from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Just a word on United’s Swedish international who I was seeing for the flesh for the first time. He went on to miss some chances but overall I thought he looked an absolutely outstanding footballer on the day. I’m still waiting for him to give the ball away.

It wasn’t one way traffic, but it was certainly Manchester United doing most of the attacking and Heaton saved from Mata, Ibrahimovic again and perhaps the best of the lot in the first half from the otherwise totally unimpressive Jesse Lingard.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson, with a tame shot straight into his hands, might have been the only player to test David de Gea in the first half but Keane got in a header just wide and Sam Vokes and Gray gave them a couple of concerning moments.

It was just after the save from Lingard that Burnley had their first real problem when Stephen Ward pulled up in the penalty box with what looked like a hamstring problem. He was immediately withdrawn with Jon Flanagan coming on. Not bad is it for a Liverpool player, his first two league games for Burnley against Everton and Manchester United.

His first involvement came in stoppage time at the end of the half when Matteo Darmian went down under a challenge or so he would have us believe. I’m not certain it was inside the penalty box and, after watching it several times on replay, I don’t think Flanagan has made contact.

Mourinho thought so and had a tantrum on the touchline before confronting Mark Clattenburg in the tunnel, thus his absence in the second half.

Last time we faced him he turned his team’s inability to beat us on Barnes and Mr Atkinson – you just knew if we didn’t lose this game he’d point at Flanagan and Mr Clattenburg. Maybe, sometime soon, the media will see this bloke has completely lost the plot. “He’s on a suicide mission,” one Burnley fan said to me during the second half.

I think it is fair to say that we came under some pressure in that second half and even when Ander Herrera was sent off it got no easier. He might have been a little unfortunate to go but he was diving in when he slipped so I’ve no sympathy.

“That won’t make things any easier,” I suggested. For once I was right, it didn’t. Juan Mata, another to play really well for United, and Ibrahimovic both hit the woodwork but more than once we came close to catching them on the counter. Gray broke once and so did Barnes, who had replaced the former. How brilliant it would have been though to beat them with Barnes scoring the winner.

Barnes also had a penalty shout but I’m not so sure it was, while Arfield, who had done so well to keep his shot down last week to score the winner against Everton, failed twice similarly this time although generally the play was down at the far end.

“A goal’s inevitable,” Gary Neville said on the Sky coverage. “Burnley are wilting,” he added. One thing we don’t do is wilt. I don’t think Neville could have seen us play, unless he was expecting to fall apart like Valencia.

We didn’t wilt, the goal wasn’t inevitable, it didn’t come. There were more saves from Heaton, one an astonishing effort to keep out Ibrahimovic. He actually got his hand to it, from where we were as he pushed defenders out of the way to spread himself it could have been any part of his anatomy. When he went down we thought Zlatan had got a bulls eye.

Ibrahimovic did miss a good chance and Wayne Rooney, a spent force according to the home fans we found, came on and blazed over, but no one was denying this brilliant Burnley team now.

I found the last five minutes absolute torture, then we were greeted with a further five minutes. Had Sir Alex made his way down to the touchline? How on earth was it five?

I clock watched, I muttered, my stomach was turning over time and time again but eventually Sean Dyche pointed to his watch, Clattenburg must have seen him and promptly blew.

We’d finally got our first away point of the season and I don’t think anyone could have expected that this is where we would get it.

What a day. What a superb day to be a Burnley fan. Tom was the star, there is absolutely no doubt about that, and we’ll be talking about that performance for years to come. But don’t ever forget those in front of him because to a man we were simply brilliant.

“Clean sheets will keep Burnley up,” Jamie Carragher told us after we’d beaten Liverpool. There’s another Jamie.

I knew this was our first point there since a 3-3 draw in April 1974. Paul Fletcher got the first that night with Leighton James scoring two penalties at the Stretford end.

What I didn’t know is that’s the first clean sheet we’ve kept in an away game against them since Boxing Day 1921 when we won 1-0 with a goal from James Lindsay. The goalkeeper that day was the legendary Jerry Dawson.

I’m still waiting for my first win there but my word I’ll remember this performance for a long, long time.

The teams were;

Manchester United: David de Gea, Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard (Wayne Rooney 73), Juan Mata (Marouane Fellaini 73), Marcus Rashford (Memphis Depay 82), Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: Sergio Romero, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young.
Yellow Cards: Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba.
Red Card: Ander Herrera.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward (Jon Flanagan 44), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (George Boyd 85), Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Ashley Barnes 60). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, James Tarkowski, Michael Kightly, Patrick Bamford.
Yellow Cards: Jon Flanagan, Dean Marney, Tom Heaton.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (County Durham).

Attendance: 75,325.

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Last Tuesday Ray Lott passed away suddenly. I’d known and been a friend of Ray for over 45 years, watching football and cricket together and trying to play both games with varied levels of success. He’s posted on the message board for a number of years, firstly as lotty1 and more recently as CumbrianClaret having settled in Haverigg after a short time living in France where he scouted Anthony Knockeart for us with the club, much to his displeasure, failing to follow it up.

Even so, he remained fiercely loyal of the club, this is the supporter who took two years to accept that Liam Robinson wasn’t a top class signing. He hated criticism of the club and would always speak out in the club’s favour where, in the 1980s he had been the voice behind the PA.

Very much against today’s football with all the money in the hands of the top clubs, he would have been absolutely thrilled with our performance and result yesterday, just as he was when I stood alongside him at Anfield back in 1974 when we beat Liverpool 1-0.

His passing has been a shock to me this week, as it has to many others, and I would like to dedicate this report to the memory of a real Claret, even though most of us fell out with him at some time or other. Rest in peace Ray.

 

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