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man-utd-1000x500The Clarets face Manchester United away tomorrow in the league, and that’s a game that once upon a time was a regular on the fixture list although this will be only our third league visit there since the 1975/76 season.

It is fixtures like this that very much signal that we are back with the top clubs, playing in front of a crowd of around 75,000 and taking on a side that has too many Premier League titles to count.

The first of those three visits in January 2010 was a first game in charge for Brian Laws. It was a bit of a novelty playing there again but by the time we went again it was more serious and, despite another defeat, it was a performance to be proud of.

It’s a long, long time since we won there, unless you include the FA Youth Cup victory of 2012. It was September 1962 when John Connelly netted a hat trick in a 5-2 win. I’m not sure we are capable of scoring five but it wouldn’t half be a good place to get off the mark on our travels.

It’s not been good has it? We’ve played three and conceded three goals in each of them. To be fair, the first came against a Chelsea team in fine form, the second at the home of champions Leicester and last time out it was Southampton who ended last season in sixth place.

Thankfully the home form has been good and we could so easily have picked up more than the ten points we’ve got although finally last week against Everton it was our turn to benefit from a late goal, the latest winning goal we’ve ever scored in the Premier League.

Two of our players are going back to Old Trafford tomorrow to play against their former club. Both Tom Heaton and Michael Keane started their careers there but both had to move on to further those careers and both can now go back to their former club as members of the England squad.

It will be the second time they’ve played for us against Manchester United at Old Trafford and Heaton, who moved to Cardiff and then Bristol City before arriving at Turf Moor said: “It’s a special game back. I still hold a lot of affection for the football club.

“I spent 13 years there and almost grew up there. I’m still pleased I made that decision to earn those stripes and get back to the Premier League and be involved in the international set up. It’s always a nice feeling going back there but, as ever, there will be a job to do and that will be the focus.”

Looking at our start to the season, he added: “I think it’s been a good start. We’ve got three good wins on the board. There are things we need to work on and look to improve and, first and foremost, that’s our away form.”

Will there be any changes in the team in front of our captain and goalkeeper tomorrow from that which played against Everton last week. I’d expect fit again George Boyd to return at the expense of Michael Kightly although it does look as though it is likely to be another week before Steven Defour will be ready to return.

Sean Dyche yesterday confirmed that Stephen Ward is fit after being forced off in the closing stages last week and he suggested that Ashley Barnes is close. But he does have Andre Gray available again although, having missed the last four games, I think it is likely that he’ll be on the bench as we continue with a 4-5-1 formation.

If so, our likely team is: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Scott Arfield, George Boyd, Sam Vokes. Subs: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Aiden O’Neill, Michael Kightly, Andre Gray, Patrick Bamford.

Whatever Manchester United do, be it win, lose or draw, it is always big news so their 4-0 defeat at Chelsea last week was virtually headline news on Sky until they played again in midweek in the League Cup against Manchester City.

Anyone would think the club is in crisis, but had they won that game they would have only been in the top five and only one win behind City and Arsenal at the top. It was, though, their third defeat of the season having previously lost at home to City and then at Watford.

They did start the season well, winning all of their first three games, but there has only been the one win since, a big 4-1 beating of Leicester at Old Trafford.

This could be when they are at their most dangerous. Wounded by that defeat at Stamford Bridge, they will certainly be looking to get their current points total of 14 moving again and there is absolutely no doubt that they possess one of the best squads in the league and they will undoubtedly provide us with a very difficult game.

They obviously have a much deeper squad than us and the manager has admitted he has a selection dilemma although he could be without some of his players. They have concerns over Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Anthony Martial fitness wise while Marcus Radford limped off in the League Cup win. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly both have knee problems with Bailly now ruled out for the next two months.

Mourinho was giving nothing away but said: “The same way everybody wanted to play against City because of such a big defeat the match before, it’s the same for this. Everyone wants to play now for different reasons, everybody wants to play now because they’re happy and they’re confident. Little problems we have but little problems we will fight against.”

The United team last time out in the league at Chelsea was: David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Subs: Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

My dad took me to Old Trafford for the FA Cup tie against Manchester United in 1965. We’d been there the week before in the league and lost 3-2 and seven days later, on what was my first ever visit, we were beaten 2-1 when George Best took off his boot, run around with it in his hand and set up two late goals after we’d led for much of the game.

I’ve been to every Manchester United v Burnley game since and I’m still waiting to see us win yet on my last visit we came so much closer to breaking my duck there than the 3-1 defeat suggests.

Sean Dyche had to make a change with Dean Marney having suffered his knee injury in the previous game. Michael Kightly came in with Scott Arfield moving into a central role, but it was central defender Michael Keane who came so close to giving us an early lead with a header which, unfortunately, went wide.

United’s first attack saw them win a corner and before they could take it they made a substitution with Chris Smalling replacing the injured Phil Jones. Incredibly, he scored with a header, his first touch, from the resulting corner.

But Burnley, playing in the hideous tin foil kit, came storming back. Kightly, who was superb on the night, forced David de Gea into a good save but there was nothing the United goalkeeper could do when Kieran Trippier got down the right to cross the ball. It was an outstanding cross but it was the brilliant movement from Danny Ings that gave him the space to head home unchallenged.

Burnley then basically took over without being able to get in front. Ings was close again, so was Barnes, another in outstanding form. I remain convinced had we got in front we’d have won it but it looked as though we would have to settle for 1-1 at half time when the clock reached 45 minutes.

Once again, they won a corner with Smalling getting above Keane to restore their lead. The Burnley fans were stunned. How on earth were we behind after being by far the better side?

We weren’t able to dominate in the second half as we had in the first, but we were still the better of the two teams and Ings was again so close to scoring.

But this was Burnley at Old Trafford. A mistake by Arfield, who had played so well, saw Angel Di Maria break. Arfield got back but brought him down and referee Kevin Friend had no option but to point to the spot with Radamel Falcao, the worst player on the pitch, scoring from the spot.

It was so undeserved. We’d played so well and without doubt our man of the match was David Jones who stood out a mile in the midfield.

The result meant we stayed next to bottom in the league but had we got what we deserved we’d have been out of the bottom three.

The teams were;

Manchester United: David de Gea, Paddy McNair, Phil Jones (Chris Smalling 5), Jonny Evans, Marcos Rojo, Wayne Rooney, Daley Blind (Ander Herrera 39), Angel di Maria, Adnan Januzaj, Radamel Falcao (James Wilson 74), Robin van Persie. Subs not used: Victor Valdes, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, George Boyd, Scott Arfield, David Jones, Michael Kightly (Sam Vokes 86), Danny Ings, Ashley Barnes (Lukas Jutkiewicz 90+2. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Steven Reid, Michael Duff, Danny Lafferty, Ross Wallace.

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