Cruel defeat for excellent Clarets
Burnley fell to a 1-0 defeat yesterday at home against Manchester United, beaten by the same scoreline as seven days earlier at Crystal Palace but this was a far different performance from the Clarets.
I was really disappointed with us last week, and that was probably for the first time all season. I thought the first half was as poor as at any time all season. But, despite the result yesterday, this was Burnley back to how I expect us to be. Apart from not being able to get ourselves a goal or two against the current second best team in the country, I thought we played really well and deserved far more from the game than a defeat.
All the pre-match talk was about the weather and Aaron Lennon. “Do you think it will be on?” I was asked that around four hours before kick off. I believe the last time we had a game postponed was 9th January 2010. Only three Premier League games survived that weekend; one of the seven called off was ours against Stoke.
I was later than usual getting to the Turf but as I walked down Harry Potts Way someone asked me: “Is Aaron Lennon starting or is he on the bench?” I said he hadn’t signed for us but was told that was not the case because it had been on television on Friday night.
Having then been abused by some bloke selling the lottery tickets, I checked the team just to make sure there was no Lennon and saw what I expected, that Scott Arfield was back with Ashley Barnes returning to his more favoured forward position. The Manchester United squad looked strong, but likewise there was no Alexis Sánchez whose move similarly hadn’t materialised in time.
Prior to kick off we held our annual In Memoriam. I think we all know by now that the minute’s silence didn’t go as hoped or expected. It would be wrong for me to comment too much here but it is a matter that Burnley FC Supporters Groups will discuss with the football club at the earliest opportunity as to how we can potentially avoid such issues again.
There wasn’t a lot to get excited about during the first half. The early part of it was difficult viewing for those of us in the Longside with the setting sun across, but it was a half when neither side could get the better of the other.
There were chances, but nothing too clear cut, at either end. Our two centre halves both had heading opportunities, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson had one effort comfortably saved by David de Gea while Jeff Hendrick fired a shot wide from the right hand side.
Nick Pope was largely unemployed in front of the Jimmy Mac Stand. He saw a couple of shots go over his bar and the only real scary moment came just before half time when Ashley Young got free and hit a cross shot. It looked as though it might curl into the far corner of the net but eventually went well wide of goal.
Half time was a bit different. I have to confess I’m no opera fan but I thought Sean Ruane’s Nessun Dorma was brilliant. Obviously, a lot of fans are on the concourses at half time and that was a shame because the former St. Ted’s pupil from Bacup deserved a full house.
There’s been no mention of referee Mike Dean during the reporting of the first half. I thought he did what he had to do well as you would expect from a respected Premier League official. Early in the second half he made a couple of decisions that the home fans perceived were not the correct ones. Dean loves to be the centre of attention and his second half performance certainly didn’t match his first half effort.
I suspect Paul Pogba, who could quite easily have been yellow carded three times will be thankful for that. Even Jose Mourinho thanked him for his efforts after the game, that tells you all you need to know. This is the manager who rolled a supposedly injured player back onto the pitch to try to hold up play and got away with it.
But less than nine minutes into the half, Dean played no wrong part in the only goal of the game. Romelu Lukaku got the better of Ben Mee on the half way line and moved down the right hand side. His ball across to Anthony Martial was outstanding and the finish from Martial was superb. Quite why no player from the midfield had dropped back to pick him up is a question to be asked, and Pope did commit too early, but there was no denying it would have been virtually impossible to stop the shot right into the postage stamp and going in off the underside of the bar.
After what seemed an eternity as they celebrated their goal, we had just over half an hour to try and rescue the game and, make no mistake, we gave it a really good go. Almost immediately Guðmundsson hit the bar with a free kick and Mee then saw the United keeper tip his header over the bar when it looked as though it might just be dropping in.
Guðmundsson’s cross just evaded James Tarkowski but it had taken a touch off a defender. We didn’t even get the corner. He then saw a header blocked. United were now time wasting trying to run the clock down. Jesse Lingard was falling down all over the place; he was the player rolled back on but we kept pushing them back.
But, unfortunately, we couldn’t get the goal and it was a third successive Premier League defeat and another to add to the run of games without a win since we beat Stoke in mid-December.
Dyche said it after the game that he wants to win and doesn’t like losing. It’s the same for all of us, but our supporters were leaving the Turf yesterday enthused with how well we had played.
This run will end just as all good and bad runs do, but we saw enough yesterday to know that we have developed into a decent Premier League side. We’re not one of the big boys, and never will be, but we matched one of those big teams yesterday, just as we’d done at Old Trafford. We’ve deserved a lot, lot more than one point from those two games.
I’m never happy with a defeat but I was more than happy with that performance yesterday. Despite it being the same scoreline, it’s brushed the memories of Palace away and given us all confidence that we can soon get moving forward again in terms of points.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield (Georges-Kévin NKoudou 81), Jeff Hendrick (Sam Vokes 81), Ashley Barnes (Nahki Wells 89). Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ashley Westwood.
Yellow Cards: Ben Mee, Phil Bardsley, Steven Defour.
Manchester United: David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata (Marouane Fellaini 72), Jesse Lingard (Marcus Rashford 80), Anthony Martial (Ander Herrera 90+4), Romelu Lukaku. Subs not used: Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay.
Yellow Cards: Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Antonio Valencia.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
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