Clarets suffer defeat in first league game of the year
Burnley continued the recent run of form with another good performance last night against Manchester United but it wasn’t enough to pick up any points or stop them from going top of the league.
Throughout the day I’d come to the conclusion that we had no game. Sky Sports News had turned into a ‘Manchester United will go top’ day with hardly any mention for us and then they sent Gary Neville to Turf Moor to conduct a ninety minute Manchester United documentary as we tried to watch the game.
Unfortunately, it ended in a 1-0 defeat with Paul Pogba scoring the only goal on 71 minutes and our wait for a first home goal against them since Robbie Blake scored in August 2009 continues. That said, this was no easy win for United, not by any means, and with maybe a little bit of the good fortune needed we could have come out of the game with at least a point.
When we made, shall we say, a disappointing start to the season we were told by manager Sean Dyche that things would pick up once we’d got the injury list down. We’ve never seemed able to do that but by last night only goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Charlie Taylor were missing and that meant probably the strongest bench we’ve had in some time with Jack Cork and Dale Stephens, both starters last Saturday, there along with the returning Dwight McNeil and Jay Rodriguez. Josh Brownhill and Ashley Westwood were both back in the starting line up, as was Nick Pope.
We got off to a good start, had a shot at goal in the very first minute and looked by far the more likely of the two teams. Anthony Martial, who usually gets a goal at Burnley, had their one chance but with almost half an hour gone I thought everything was going well.
That’s when VAR stepped in. Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, in Premier League action for the first time since Robbie Brady replaced him in the win against Crystal Palace in November, went down in a challenge with Luke Shaw. Before I’d time to scream for a foul, United broke and the moaning Edinson Cavani went down in a challenge that earned Robbie Brady a yellow card or so it seemed. Cavani going down, that was nothing new was it? To be fair, this was the one occasion when he was probably fouled.
That’s when VAR, aka Stuart Attwell, stepped in. He decided he should check to see whether Brady’s challenge warranted a red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity. I have to say that Brady looked quite relaxed about it as we waited, and waited, and waited.
You could consider Shaw fortunate not to get a red; I do, but the real nonsense here is that it took over six minutes to resolve the issue and I point none of the blame for that at Friend’s door although he has to take some responsibility for only four minutes being added on at the end of the half.
If anything, United stepped up a bit after that delay and soon after they had the ball in the net from a Harry Maguire header only for Friend to rule it out for a foul on Erik Pieters. I’m not so sure; I’d have been very unhappy had we had a goal like that disallowed.
We got to half time at 0-0 and we’d played well overall. We might not have deserved to be in front but we’d have been very unfortunate had we gone in behind.
But we defended well and restricted them to very few chances in front of goal, that was until they finally broke the deadlock just past the seventy minute mark. Marcus Rashford ball from the right was volleyed home by Pogba. It looked a good finish and there is no doubt that he struck the ball well although Pope had it covered until Matt Lowton got an unfortunate deflection.
We had to give it a good go and we did. Matěj Vydra, who enjoyed a lively cameo as a substitute, had a couple of opportunities, James Tarkowski had one too while Brownhill missed the target with an effort. You sensed we weren’t going to get that much needed goal but when one ball came into the box there was a potential handball by Maguire that VAR decided to take a look at. It was one of those maybe it is, maybe it isn’t moments, the one we would never get but the one that is a penalty all day long at the other end. It wasn’t given and soon after the final whistle was blown on a 1-0 defeat.
You don’t go into games to lose, that’s very much the case, but even in defeat you can look for positives and there were plenty here. Even before kick off, seeing a much stronger match day squad was a start and there were some good performances against what currently is a very good Manchester United team.
It’s off on our travels now. We’ve two games in London, at West Ham and Fulham, either side of a trip to Liverpool before we next play at the Turf when Aston Villa will be our visitors two weeks tonight.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Robbie Brady (Dwight McNeil 65), Chris Wood (Matěj Vydra 80), Ashley Barnes (Jay Rodriguez 87). Subs not used: Will Norris, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Dale Stephens, Jack Cork, Josh Benson.
Yellow Card: Ashley Westwood.
Manchester United: David de Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Marcus Rashford (Mason Greenwood 80), Bruno Fernandes (Scott McTominay 89), Anthony Martial (Axel Tuanzebe 90+5), Edinson Cavani. Subs not used: Dean Henderson, Fred, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek.
Yellow Cards: Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).