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1718 burnley turf moor 02 1000x500The last two home games were against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool and now, prior to the visit of Manchester City in two weeks time, we face a home game against Manchester United less than four weeks since our visit to Old Trafford.

We are having a really good season, better than we could have imagined, but, to put things in perspective, United currently sit five places above us in the table with a 16 point advantage.

It’s been the case for a few games now that we’ve not been able to move up or down from our seventh place, but that’s no longer the case. Although we are five points behind sixth place Arsenal, we now have only a three point lead over Leicester who have a game in hand.

“Seven without a win,” and “Season over,” are just two of the comments I’ve seen and heard. It’s always interesting that a cup defeat will be added in a difficult run yet a cup win would have been conveniently excluded.

Yes, it is six league games without a win, and it is just three points from those games, but it could have been so different. Imagine had we not conceded those stoppage time goals against Manchester United and Liverpool; imagine if Paul Tierney hadn’t been shouting NO CONTACT and done the decent thing and awarded the stonewall penalty at Huddersfield. We could so easily have been going into this game on 39 points.

But there are no ifs and so we are on this run and we have gone six without a win, three of them against top six teams, but for the pessimists our lead over third from bottom is still a massive 14 points and I don’t see those bottom three catching us any time soon.

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Injuries have certainly played their part and that’s led to two different roles recently for Ashley Barnes. He came on for the injured Chris Wood against Spurs two days before Christmas and has retained his place since although for the last two games he’s been on the left hand side of the midfield in the absence of Scott Arfield who himself had come in for Robbie Brady.

“I don’t think we are struggling,” Barnes said. “Where we are in the league speaks for itself and we just need to keep building on the basics and performances and see where it can take us at the end of the year.”

Arfield is available again after missing the last two games but he’s the only one of the injured players ready to return. Wood remains out of the reckoning as does Stephen Ward whilst Jon Walters has had surgery this week. Add to that long term injury victims Tom Heaton and Robbie Brady and we really are down on numbers.

We have had one addition to the squad in Tottenham winger Georges-Kévin NKoudou has come in on loan and I expect him to make his home debut tomorrow although it is probable that it will be as a substitute as was his debut at Crystal Palace last week.

Today’s news has all been about Aaron Lennon. He hasn’t signed for us but it is looking very likely that he will, according to reports, and he could be set to appear in Burnley colours for the first time at Newcastle a week on Wednesday.

With the disappointing performance last week, Sean Dyche could be considering changes. If not, I do think Arfield will return and we could line up: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes. Subs from: Anders Lindegaard, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ashley Westwood, Fredrik Ulvestad, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes.

Manchester United are currently second in the table. They hold a three point lead over Liverpool and Chelsea, the two teams directly below them, but sit twelve points behind their local rivals Manchester City who top the league.

They have been formidable at home. When we visited them on Boxing Day, only Manchester City had taken any points there; they beat them 2-1. Since our draw, they’ve also dropped points at Old Trafford in a 0-0 draw against Southampton.

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Away from home they’ve recorded six wins but have lost just twice. They were in successive away games too, the second of them came at Chelsea where they lost 1-0 but in the previous away game they had been beaten 2-1 by Huddersfield, probably their only disappointing result of the season.

As we go into the game, United haven’t sold anyone this window so Henrikh Mkhitaryan (pictured) remains their player whilst Alexis Sánchez, for now, is still an Arsenal player.

Mkhitaryan won’t play though. Jose Mourinho said of him: “No, not selected but in very good condition, training really well and in perfect condition like the others.”

He did reveal that Daley Blind had suffered a little injury in training but ruled out both Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who are recovering from injuries. “Everyone else is fit and good,” he said.

Ashley Young is also available having served a three match ban, but Mourinho has been praising Luke Shaw so Young could have to wait for a recall.

They beat Stoke 3-0 last Monday when they lined up: David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku. Subs: Joel Pereira, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay, Marouane Fellaini, Marcus Rashford.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

When Manchester United arrived at Turf Moor last April they were on a run of 22 Premier League games without defeat. They hadn’t lost since a 4-0 hammering at Chelsea in October with the remarkable run getting underway with a 0-0 draw against us at Old Trafford.

They made it 23 games with a 2-0 win with goals from Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, both in the first half, and once in front they never really looked likely to lose their grip on another three points.

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That first goal came when Rooney cut out a cross on the edge of their box with the ball breaking to Martial. He got the better of Joey Barton, who was playing his last game for us. Once Joey didn’t bring him down he played the ball out to Ander Herrera, took the return ball and finished comfortably.

That led to our best spell but it all came to an end when Rooney scored the second. We gave the ball away to Paul Pogba whose ball was sent towards goal by Martial. Tom Heaton saved but Rooney got ahead of Michael Keane to score.

A few weeks earlier, Spurs had also beaten us 2-0 at the Turf but their goals came much later in a game that might have just gone our way. This time we were well beaten by United who did eventually lose another couple of games before the end of the season.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee (James Tarkowski ht), Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson 62), Jeff Hendrick, Joey Barton, Robbie Brady, Ashley Barnes (Dan Agyei 75), Andre Gray. Subs not used: Nick Pope, Jon Flanagan, Ashley Westwood, Steven Defour.

Manchester United: David de Gea, Ashley Young, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba (Michael Carrick 90), Jesse Lingard (Marcus Rashford 70), Anthony Martial (Henrikh Mkhitaryan 80), Wayne Rooney. Subs not used: Sergio Romero, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe.

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