A defeat that was more difficult to take
We’ve been beaten this season at home by Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur but last night’s loss to Manchester United was a much, much harder one to take.
It was always going to be a tough opening to the season but to have lost all of our opening four home games is a concern. We’ve only twice previously been beaten in four successive home games in one Premier League season; the first of those occasions was back in 2010, the other in the final four home games of the behind closed doors 2020/21 season.
With discussions apparently on the potential for Sunday evening televised football in the Premier League, this one was bad enough with the 8 p.m. kick off and I didn’t think I’d ever go on the Turf to find them showing ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ on the concourse screens.
It had been a quiet afternoon of Jeff Stelling without Jeff Stelling for me and I’d seen Everton go 1-0 up at Brentford before leaving home, just a couple of minutes before Brentford equalised.
After an early attack from United, the game really started well for the Clarets and twice we came close to opening the scoring through Amdouni. With only around ten minutes gone, Connor Roberts and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson linked up well down the right with Guðmundsson eventually pushing a ball through for Roberts to run onto. Roberts did well to get to it and his cross was met by Amdouni who looked to have got it all right, heading the ball down. Right in the corner, it would have been 1-0 but there has to be credit to goalkeeper André Onana who made a terrific save to keep it out.
We were putting them under pressure and it got Diogo Dalot a yellow card when his only method of stopping Luca Koleosho flying past him down the left was to foul him. We were putting them under pressure.
Soon after came out best chance. Josh Cullen played the ball forward for the very impressive Ramsey who slipped it superbly into the box for Amdouni to the left of goal. His shot came back off the foot of the far post with the crowd expectantly ready to go up to celebrate a goal.
If we wondered whether we would pay for the missed chances, we thought the answer had come when Jonny Evans headed home a right-wing corner midway through the first half. Now, VAR, so wrongly, dealt us a bad hand at Forest but this time we learned there was a check for offside. Eventually VAR official advised match referee Tony Harrington, who I thought had a really good game, to visit the monitor with the crowd inside being told it was for offside.
Offside from a corner? Why is the referee going over to check an objective decision? Pictures clearly show Rasmus Hojlund in an offside position blocking James Trafford and where Villa got away with one, United didn’t and the goal was ruled out. There have to be concerns though at how we defend these set pieces. I feel sorry for Trafford who finds himself surrounded by almost half the opposition team with no defender for help.
Although the game had evened out a bit, we still looked good and set to go in at half time with the scores level. We didn’t quite make it against Spurs when Cristian Romero scored in the second minute of stoppage time; we didn’t this time either. We were caught out with a ball knocked forward by Evans. It found Bruno Fernandes clear in the box on the right and there was nothing anyone could do about his volley which flew into the far corner.
It really had flattened the place and for a long period in the second half, we really didn’t look as though we might get back into it. United looked to be in control of the situation and comfortable with their one goal lead. They didn’t really put us under pressure but it seemed as though our attacking threat, so evident in the first half, had left us.
With around seventeen minutes remaining, we made a triple substitution with all of Berge, Jacob Bruun Larsen and Jay Rodriguez coming on. We did regain some of that threat; Jay Rod had a half chance; he also won us a corner and we did really take the game to them. Manuel Benson came on too with not long left but we just couldn’t quite create that one big chance that might go on and win us a point.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time, we won a free kick on the right win, wide of the penalty box. Everyone went up, including goalkeeper Trafford, but we played it short to Benson who cut inside and went for the shot. This time, unlike those at the end of last season, he fired straight at the goalkeeper while referee Harrington called time and blew his final whistle.
I was brassed off when we lost the first three games; I always am when we lose, but I was also accepting of the fact that we were the second best team in each of those games with the visitors deserving the points. This one was so much harder to take because they weren’t better than us.
I think this is the worst Manchester United side we’ve played in the Premier League era. Apart from one class finish for their goal, they weren’t better than us, for long periods they were very much second best. The Match of the Day pundits referred to our lack of a cutting edge; Gary Lineker did jump to our defence by referring to the missing Foster.
This morning on Sky Sports News, both Kevin Phillips and Lee Hendrie said similar to the comments of the night before. Both also agreed that a Manchester City or an Arsenal would have murdered this Manchester United playing in the way they did against us.
There are signs of improvement and there need to be. I thought Al-Dakhil was outstanding defensively yesterday and I was so impressed with Ramsey who looked anything but a novice making his first start at this level. One swallow doesn’t make a summer is something we often heard from one former Burnley manager but Ramsey’s performance I thought was one very encouraging swallow.
It’s back on our travels now. We’re off to Salford for the cup on Tuesday before heading for Tyneside next Saturday where we will come up against Nick Pope for the first time since he left us for Newcastle who will also have a familiar face on the right of defence and in the technical area.
One way our another, we have to get this season moving and the sooner the better.
The teams were;
Burnley: James Trafford, Connor Roberts, Ameen Al-Dakhil, Jordan Beyer, Charlie Taylor, Josh Cullen, Josh Brownhill (Manuel Benson 86), Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Mike Trésor 20), Aaron Ramsey (Sander Berge 73), Luca Koleosho (Jacob Bruun Larsen 73), Zeki Amdouni (Jay Rodriguez 73). Subs not used: Arijanet Muric, Hannes Delcroix, Jack Cork, Anass Zaroury.
Yellow Card: Jordan Beyer
Manchester United: André Onana, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelöf, Jonny Evans (Sofyan Amrabat 89), Sergio Reguilón (Raphael Varane 79), Casemiro, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes, Hannibal Mejbri, Marcus Rashford, Rasmus Højlund. Subs not used: Altay Bayinidir, Anthony Martial, Christian Eriksen, Alejandro Garnacho, Facundo Pellistri, Donny van de Beek, Daniel Gore.
Yellow Cards: Diogo Dalot, Sergio Reguilón.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Hartlepool).
Attendance: to be confirmed.
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