The Reds’ frustration was compounded by the dismissal of manager Jose Mourinho, who was sent to the stands, and midfielder Ander Herrera, which left the hosts with 10 men for a sizeable amount of the second half.
A combination of Tom Heaton’s heroics, stoic defending and bad fortune saw United slip up yet again, while the result hands the Clarets a valuable point.
Early dominance sets precedent
The Reds started strongly, and came close early on through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba. Marcus Rashford also remained a threat on the left wing, with United showing plenty of intent to penetrate from the off.
Stand-in captain for the day, Juan Mata, proved to be the fulcrum for most of the hosts’ adventure and showed great enterprise when attempting to link up with his teammates, while Herrera looked a shrewd choice at the base of United’s midfield.
Unsurprisingly, Burnley remained wedded to their own half in an attempt to suffocate the life out of United’s attacks. Ibrahimovic in particular cut a frustrated figure, with Michael Keane and Ben Mee two ankle weights that the former Sweden international could not shake off.
The Clarets, therefore, did not offer an awful lot going forwards but at least they had restored their fruitful strike partnership of Sam Vokes and Andre Gray, with the latter an immediate inclusion in the side after serving his four-game suspension.
However, neither were involved in the visitors’ sole shot on target during the entire game, which came courtesy of Johann Berg Gudmundsson. Stephen Ward was afforded the time to whip in an inviting cross, but United could only clear as far as the Icelandic winger, who powered an effort into the grateful arms of David De Gea. It proved to be the exception, rather than the rule, for the pattern of the first half.
United continued to turn the thumbscrews, but were repelled on numerous occasions by former Red Heaton, who put in one of the most convincing cases to be given an opportunity as England’s No. 1 from recent candidates as many can remember.
Sending off did not affect United's approach
The Reds’ exercise in patience was futile for their combustible manager, as Mourinho failed to re-emerge from the tunnel at half-time: he instead took up his new perch in the stands after being sent-off.
It had done little to hinder his side’s progression, however, as the second half continued in the same vein as the first had ended. Mata came close from Ibrahimovic’s pull-back but found himself at the mercy of Heaton, as did Lingard shortly after.
But the Burnley skipper’s crowning moment was yet to come. From Herrera’s clipped cross, Ibrahimovic’s enviable skill of athleticism drew an outstanding reflex stop from Heaton, who paid homage to all goalkeeping coaches across the land by following the basics: make yourself big.
Mata was to come agonisingly close again moments later, striking the base of the post from a corner. His compatriot, Herrera, endured similar luck, when a seemingly rash tackle on Dean Marney resulted in referee Mark Clattenburg producing a second yellow. Replays showed that the United man had actually slipped, but his ensuing protestations fell on deaf ears.
His removal, similarly to Mourinho’s did not affect his side’s mental fortitude. On the Reds went, but denial always followed. Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo saw long-range efforts fly wide, with Burnley’s backline blocking most other efforts that remained infield. Other defences may have relented, but the Clarets’ rearguard is not one for moving.