MANCHESTER UNITED 3, BURNLEY 1
PHIL JONES AND DALEY BLIND OFF AFTER FIRST HALF INJURIES
WHISTLES FROM CROWD DURING POOR FIRST HALF
SUBSTITUTE CHRIS SMALLING SCORES TWICE WITH HIS HEAD
DANNY INGS SCORES FOR BURNLEY
ROBIN VAN PERSIE SEALS VICTORY WITH LATE PENALTY, UNITED’S FIRST OF THE SEASON
Early substitute Chris Smalling scored a brace and Robin Van Persie scored United’s first penalty of the season as Manchester United overcame Burnley 3-1 at Old Trafford after the first signs of discontent from sections of the crowd during a very poor first period.
Danny Ings, clearly the best striker on the pitch for both sides, had scored an early equaliser as Burnley overran United in the first half but couldn’t capitalise with more goals before United upped a gear in the second half and converted two more chances to go back up to third in the Barclays Premier League despite an overall lacklustre performance.
Smalling, on after just five minutes after injury to Phil Jones, scored with headers either side of Danny Ings’ equaliser in the first half before United made sure of victory late in the second half after Scott Arfield had brought down Angel Di Maria with Van Persie taking the penalty.
The result was harsh on Burnley who might have had more to celebrate if they were able to take their first half chances and weren’t carved apart at set pieces.
“They were better” admitted Van Gaal of Burnley. “The first half was not a good half. They pressed us. We could not keep the ball.
“We can’t have this in the next game because we would go out of the FA Cup.
“I want to give credit to Burnley. We scored out of set plays. That we train also. I am happy we were 2-1 at half time.
“I could reorganise my team a little bit and the second half was a little bit better.
“Not much better but a little bit better and we could benefit more from the weaknesses of the opponent.
“We have to forget this match because it was not the best match and for the process it was not a good match.”
Van Gaal acknowledged isolated whistling from sections of the crowd during the first half before Smalling put the Reds into the lead.
“Whistles are a concern, because the fans are the most important part of the club, who keep the club living.” admitted Van Gaal.
“They applauded after the match though, and the match is 90 minutes not 45.” added the Dutchman who also pointed out that United had been in the top four for weeks and were well placed to retain a Champions League spot at the end of the season, a factor that he intended to discuss with Joel and Avram Glazer, the United owners who were making a rare visit to Old Trafford to see a match.
Injuries and suspensions had led Van Gaal into more tactical changes against Burnley with Marcos Rojo at left back, Paddy McNair at right back, Ander Herrera on the right flank after he came on, and Wayne Rooney played the entire second half anchoring midfield after Daley Blind had gone off injured late in the first half.
Van Gaal once again poured praise on his captain for his versatility after first half injuries had forced more tactical changes.
“I was very pleased he replaced Daley Blind in the six position and he showed composure.
“He wasn’t today the Rooney that I want to see but he has showed that he can play in every position.
“Maybe he can better play in the striker position but then I have a problem in midfield and then you are asking me another question.
“I have to compare with Falcao and Van Persie, Wilson and Rooney because these are the strikers for me but I have to look for the better balance and I think till now that because of Rooney we have better balance in midfield.”
United started without the suspended Luke Shaw after his sending off in the 1-1 draw away to West Ham and his place in the team was taken by Jonny Evans.
Antonio Valencia also made way for Paddy McNair as Louis Van Gaal made just two changes from the side that was accused of long-ball tactics by Hammers manager Sam Allardyce.
Burnley made just one change from their last game against West Brom with Michael Kightly replacing injured midfielder Dean Marney who was ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
United were under immense pressure from Burnley during the first half and perhaps should have opened the scoring after just three minutes when Kieran Trippier’s cross was headed wide by ex-United defender Michael Keane.
United had plans of their own, and McNair tested Tom Heaton, another ex-United player, with a long range shot before Louis Van Gaal had to make an early change with Chris Smalling replacing the luckless and injured Phil Jones after just five minutes.
Barely 25 seconds after coming on however, Smalling had headed United into the lead from close range after McNair and Radamel Falcao headers from a United corner.
Burnley weren’t cowed by the early setback and Ings provided Kightly with the ammunition to force David De Gea into a ninth minute save.
Ings promptly put Burnley back on level terms after just 12 minutes with a flying header from Kieran Trippier’s right wing cross.
It was the least Burnley deserved and Ings could have put Burnley into a deserved lead on 17 minutes but blazed over while Ashley Barnes’ curling shot went just wide of the post after George Boyd’s cut back a minute later.
United were looking sluggish in comparison to the fresh and motivated Burley side, and suffered another injury blow when Daley Blind had to go off for treatment on a cut to the forehead.
The Dutchman did return but couldn’t finish the half as United toiled and there was barely any time to digest the sight of Wayne Rooney playing just in front of the defence in the departed Blind’s quarterback role with his replacement Ander Herrera playing in Rooney’s right flank berth before injury time saw United go into the lead.
Burnley had finished the half strongly, showcasing their movement, athleticism and organisation once again but were hit by the inevitable sucker punch deep into first half stoppage time when Smalling once again popped up to head United into the lead, this time from Di Maria’s cross following a short corner routine.
Despite a very lopsided look to United’s team in the second half, they had the clearer chances, with Adnan Januzaj’s shot taking a deflection off Keane while Di Maria vainly appealed for a penalty just after the hour.
With a little more ambition Chris Smalling could have sealed a hat trick with 14 minutes left when he started a counter attack for United and found Di Maria on the right, but when the Argentine crossed back into the centre the ball was just too far in front of the defender and was acrobatically headed over his own bar by Kieran Trippier.
Burnley had never stopped looking for opportunities despite the United pressure, and Kightly blazed over after Ings’ shot was blocked following a Burnley corner after 79 minutes.
United finally made one of their attacks count with eight minutes to go when Scott Arfield brought down Di Maria as he raced into the area and Robin Van Persie stepped up to make it 3-1 to United with a sharply taken penalty low to the left, United’s first spot kick of the season.
Burnley’s will was never broken, however, and they twice denied United a fourth when a brace of shots by Di Maria and Januzaj were blocked on the line in quick succession.