Burnley vs Manchester United: Squad depth proved valuable as top four hopes remain alive

Talking Points

Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney were on target as Manchester United beat Burnley 2-0 to go within touching distance of the top four. This is their third consecutive big victory, as they coped well in the absence of many major stars. Yesterday’s win has now made the mouth-watering clash against City in the weekend even more enticing.

United opened the scoring in the 21st minute, as Martial skilfully ran past Barton, passed the ball to Herrera on his right, who then made a sublime first-touch pass back to Martial who put the ball past the oncoming Heaton. Rooney doubled the lead as he pounced upon the ball after Heaton blocked it. The ball deflected off Keane into the net.

The second half was substantially less eventful. United could’ve scored when Lingard released Rooney down the left, who slipped rather funnily. Burnley couldn’t make a comeback as United were organised at the back and solid in the midfield. Burnley’s rather miserable league form continues, as they’ve now won only one of their last 11 league games, having last won in January.

As things stand, United are now just a point behind City in fifth. The ones in danger, however, are Liverpool who, following their loss to Crystal Palace, are just three points ahead of United, but have played two games more than both Manchester clubs.

Squad Depth helps United

Having made eight changes to the team that won against Anderlecht and without 4 regulars, nobody expected United to have an easy afternoon. However, one of the biggest assets of José’s side is their amazing squad depth. Displays like this can certainly keep a manager content and relaxed, simply because the pressure and stress are relieved when he knows that even the second-choice players can do the job for him.

Did Martial and Rooney prove themselves?

Martial had a brilliant game in front of goal, as he scored a fantastic goal and gave the Burnley defence a torrid time. He played with a lot more freedom than usual, and was found in the No. 9 position very often. Rooney, who started at that position, did not have as good a game as Martial, but he did certainly prove his worth with a crucial goal that sealed the win. So this points to two questions- Has Martial answered Jose in style? And does Rooney still have a future at United? The next two games could answer these queries.

Herrera and Pogba Quietly Brilliant

Once again it was Ander Herrera who ran the show. He and Pogba dominated the Burnley midfield to such an extent that Burnley couldn’t get out of their half for long periods, even while in possession. Herrera’s beautiful one touch pass created Martial’s opener, while Pogba was heavily involved in the build up to Rooney’s goal. The midfield duo have certainly gone under the radar, with their performances going largely unappreciated. They make United’s midfield tick and would be really important while trying to mount a title challenge next season.

Bailly Shines but Keane fails to Impress

Eric Bailly, who already looks set to become a United great, had another memorable match. He is just flawless, and his tackles and interceptions are pleasing to watch. The way he helped United cope with Rojo’s absence is simply commendable.

On the other hand, former United defender Michael Keane had a night to forget, as he couldn’t deal well with United’s attack. He has had a good couple of seasons, but if he needs to justify the £25 million interest in him by many sides including United, he needs to do substantially more. Even an out-of-form Martial gave him a tough time. He needs to take this as a lesson, pull up his socks and get down to work. He’s clearly way better than this performance.

Top Four Very Much Possible

United are now just a solitary point behind fourth placed City. Also, they’re three points behind third placed Liverpool but have two games in hand, one of them being this week’s Manchester derby. It’s clear that if United win the derby, it would be a bad omen for Liverpool, who would definitely pray for a draw or a City win. Anyways, this heating up of the top four race makes the Manchester derby even more enticing and decisive.