Pride ahead of disappointment at Old Trafford
It was stoppage time yesterday at Old Trafford before the Burnley fans were quietened as Jesse Lingard earned Manchester United a point with his second goal of the afternoon, but that silence was soon replaced by a deafening roar as our team earned us what can only be described as a brilliant point against Manchester United.
We stunned them with an early goal from Ashley Barnes, who scored from close range following a Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson free kick, and just nine minutes from half time we doubled our advantage with a sensational free kick goal from Steven Defour, but Lingard, on as a half time substitute, scored twice to end our hopes of a first win there since the 1962/63 season.
The board showing an extra five minutes was just going up when Martin Atkinson, who had spent most of the afternoon waving unnecessary yellow cards around, gave United a soft free kick from which they eventually got that leveller, but this was another good point, absolutely no doubt about that, and has taken our points total for 2017 to 50.
The final two short trips of the season are this week. We go to Huddersfield this Saturday and yesterday it was off to Manchester where we again opted for a parking spot on the free car park at Ladywell before boarding the tram.
It was a little chaotic getting in the ground with all the security checks but, once in my standing area, with the teams just about to come out, I spotted a familiar figure in front of me, none other than our club captain and England’s number one Tom Heaton. He told me that he hadn’t been in an away end for around 15 years and wanted to do it and was there with his wife and son.
He certainly appeared to be enjoying it, no more so in the first half when the Clarets, showing the one change from the team beaten against Spurs, with Barnes coming in for the injured Chris Wood, threatened the biggest shock result in the Premier League since we beat Chelsea on the opening day of the season.
This was always set to be a tough afternoon. The defeat against Spurs had certainly flattened some of our supporters, probably those dreaming of a Champions League place. Suddenly, and for the first time all season, we’d been beaten and deservedly so by a Spurs team who were, on the day, much better than us.
So, to try and recover from that we are sent to Old Trafford but what a performance we got from our team, a performance that will live long in the memory as we gave the home side a hell of a task and then almost hung on for that victory.
The ever busy referee had his card out with less than three minutes gone, waving it at United’s Marcos Rojo who fouled Jeff Hendrick to the left of the penalty box. Guðmundsson took the kick, it ricocheted a couple of times in the box before Kevin Long poked it to Barnes who dragged it forward and then expertly fired home.
What a start, and then, without much of a response from the home team, we clipped the top of the bar when Scott Arfield’s effort from another Guðmundsson cross almost doubled the lead.
That home response did come but the only time we were troubled was from a Luke Shaw effort that Nick Pope parried and then we were sent into dreamland with that second goal. Ashley Young brought down Arfield some thirty yards from goal and from the far end it looked as though Guðmundsson, in discussion with Defour, would take the kick. But it was Defour, with just a couple of paces of a run up. He got the ball over the wall into the top corner of the net to David de Gea’s right and Burnley were 2-0 up at Old Trafford with as good a free kick as you are likely to see.
The away end just went berserk. The noise levels were incredible as the travelling Clarets saluted Defour and then we set about preserving that lead until half time. We did, with just a couple of scares. Ben Mee cleared one off the line and then Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked a certain scorer just before half time until an amazing block from Long kept him out, the single best piece of defending all afternoon.
Burnley two goals to the good at Old Trafford, but half time was Tom time. Suddenly, it seemed the whole away end had seen our captain as the chant of ‘Heaton – in the middle of the stand’ went up. You could see Burnley fans trying to point him out to fellow Clarets and then a couple of star struck children appeared asking for selfies. That couple became a queue; the concerned stewards appeared but Heaton waved them away and spent the entire half time happily posing for photographs.
I watched it all from close quarters and he was brilliant with everyone of those asking for photographs. Sean Dyche often talks about bringing in good characters. Tom Heaton was his first signing and he was an absolute credit to himself, our club and his profession yesterday.
What he, and the rest of us, had to watch in the second half was something of a battle, broken up only by yellow cards being waved so often no one could keep count. Pope made a superb save to deny Lingard early in the half but the United man reduced the deficit soon after with a back heeled effort.
We were put under severe pressure at times but there weren’t too many occasions when Pope was called into action and I certainly can’t recall him having to make too many saves. The home fans, including the tourists of course, got over excited when they won a free kick in the same area from which Defour scored our second but Pogba presented the ball to the Stretford End.
With the free kick awarded, United decided to carry on and put the ball in the net. Obviously it wasn’t a goal but nothing was said. When Sam Vokes, who came on as a substitute for Defour, was ruled offside, he went on to score and was promptly yellow carded by Atkinson, again showing that the bigger clubs can get away with a lot more. Was Vokes offside? Should that have been 3-1? It was certainly very close.
We moved into the 90th minute and were still in front. I’m sure I spotted Sir Alex Ferguson coming down the touchline to speak to Lee Mason before he held up the board showing the added minutes. It was five and they’d just won a free kick.
From that, the ball dropped nicely off Mee for Lingard whose first time shot was perfect and into the corner.
On five previous occasions I’ve been there to witness United score goals in the last five minutes of a game to either draw against us or beat us, on one occasion scoring twice to beat us 2-1.
My head dropped when it went in. I was absolutely devastated, but not for long. As the game restarted I heard from my left: “Let’s not lose it,” and it seemed as though the whole away end felt the same as the roar went up again and didn’t subside right up to that final whistle and beyond.
“No disappointment, just pride,” said Dyche after the game. There has to be some disappointment to get so close to winning at Old Trafford and losing a goal so late in the game. But he’s absolutely right about the pride and the way the fans reacted to the players at the end, you’d have thought we’d won a trophy.
This was a massive result. Manchester United are currently the second best team in the country and have spent millions and millions on that team, even though some Portuguese bloke doesn’t think they are spending enough. Some of their players have cost more than we could ever envisage spending on an entire squad.
They were beaten earlier this month at home by the one team who are considerably better than them, those noisy neighbours from the same city, but before yesterday they had won every other home game this season and hadn’t dropped any other home points since April when Swansea secured a very unlikely draw. We were even able to achieve this without the services of Heaton, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Robbie Brady and Chris Wood.
Undoubtedly, we had some defending to do, a lot of defending to do, but it was nothing like the amount we faced in the 0-0 draw last season with Pope having nothing like as much as Heaton had dealt with in that previous game. With just a bit of good fortune we’d have come home with all three points and I would be declaring us safe from relegation.
The teams were;
Manchester United: David de Gea, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo (Henrikh Mkhitaryan ht), Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Jesse Lingard ht), Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku. Subs not used: Sergio Romero, Daly Blind, Victor Lindelof, Tuanzebe, Herrera.
Yellow Cards: Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour (Sam Vokes 67), Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes (Jon Walters 81). Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood, Dean Marney, Nahki Wells.
Yellow Cards: Ashley Barnes, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Phil Bardsley, Nick Pope, Sam Vokes, Jack Cork.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds).
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