Something had to give
This was an encounter that pitched Burnley, a team that had kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League, against Manchester United, a side that have scored in every one of their away league games this season. Something simply had to give.
With Paul Pogba striking in the 18th minute, Burnley’s period of resolve turned to dust. The United midfielder’s well-taken shot bypassed Nick Pope, who was making his 200th appearance for the club and made some fine saves to prevent another United goal.
Clean sheets are a badge of honour for Sean Dyche’s team and their recent shutouts against Watford and Arsenal were welcome, but it was United’s record that prevailed from this game.
United let it slip again
Despite scoring first, and dominating the first half, Ralf Rangnick’s side let a lead slip for the second successive match. As it was at home to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup last Friday, they allowed their opponents back into the contest. Whereas that game went to a penalty shootout, which Middlesbrough won, this one remained as a draw.
Weak defending played a part in Jay Rodriguez’s equaliser, but the greater issue for Rangnick is the apparent inability of his team to kill games off at the other end. They were in control after 45 minutes with Bruno Fernandes delivering inviting dead-balls and Jadon Sancho lively on the left-wing, however, the team’s wastefulness cost them.
Rangnick has banished his 4-2-2-2 formation to the rubbish bin for now, opting for the more conventional 4-2-3-1, but even this set-up doesn’t appear to be properly greasing the wheels of the United machine. Yes, the visitors were unlucky to see two goals ruled out either side of Pogba’s opener, but their presence deteriorated as Burnley rallied.
No blocking VAR
United saw an early breakthrough goal ruled out for offside, but that only tells half the story. As Raphael Varane ran through at the back post to head in Fernandes’ free kick, Harry Maguire — in an offside position — obstructed Jay Rodriguez, who was attempting to run into the penalty area and mark the United defender, and thus became ‘active in play’.
Referee Mike Dean awarded the goal but after inspecting a replay on the pitch-side monitor, ruled it out for Maguire’s infringement from an offside position. This was the type of action, and goal, that has been scored countless times before. Yet, now with VAR’s beady eye inspecting every aspect of play, there is simply no getting away with it.
Welcome point but more still needed
Against United, a point should be snatched at — even against this United. And Burnley deserved their share of the spoils. New signing Wout Weghorst, who arrived from Wolfsburg last month, was a presence up front and his elegant pivot and pass presented Rodriguez with his goalscoring opportunity.
Positives also came for Dyche in the form of a much-improved second half, in which Burnley threw down their defensive garb and played in a more attack-minded manner. It told in the numbers with the home side registering no shots at goal in the first half but nine after the interval.
The sight of Maxwel Cornet limping off will be a cause for concern ahead of the visit of Liverpool to Turf Moor on Sunday. It is now three draws on the bounce for Dyche’s team but still they remain at the foot of the table, albeit with two games in hand on their competitors. Soon, though, victories must arrive too.
5000 and counting for founder members
A piece of history also laced this Premier League meeting as it was Burnley’s 5,000th league game in English football. Dyche’s side are just the second team to reach the milestone, their Lancashire rivals Preston North End beat them to the record in July 2020. Both were founder members of the Football League.
In fact, the two Lancashire clubs faced each other on the opening day in September 1888, which Preston won 5-2. Since then neither team have left the football league, however, both came mightily close in the late 1980s when the pair were in relegation mire in the fourth division. There’s nothing like a local rivalry to spur you on.