Burnley 0, Manchester United 1
Manchester United returned to the Premier League summit after Paul Pogba scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at Burnley.Embed from Getty Images
It was the first time since 2012 that the Reds had topped the Premier League after the 17th game of the season since 2012 when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge.
It was the perfect tonic for the Reds ahead of the trip to Anfield on Sunday to face title rivals Liverpool – they stand at the top of the league – three points clear of Jurgen Klopp’s side having played the same number of games.
VAR was heavily involved in this game with decisions ranging from red cards to goals all coming under scrutiny as both sides had plenty of shots but United improved to deserve the win.
Possible red cards for Luke Shaw and Robbie Brady were avoided by both sides thanks to a complicated VAR adjudication.
And there was further drama to come as it had seemed that Harry Maguire had put the Reds into the lead but his goal, controversially from Shaw’s cross, was ruled out for a soft push on Erik Pieters.
United gained the upper hand after the break as Burnley retreated and Pogba scored before the Reds escaped another VAR examination late on when Maguire looked to have handled the ball in the United area.
There was a late injury blow for United though as Anthony Martial appeared to tweak his hamstring in injury time.
Matchwinning midfielder Pogba looked on form ahead of the trip to Anfield and spoke after the game:
“I’m always happy when we win. And I’m always happy when we are top.” smiled the jubilant Frenchman after the game.
“It was a goal for sure, it was a strange decision but we got the result we deserved” said Pogba of the disallowed Maguire goal.
“It’s difficult to play here, we had to keep calm and trust the goal would come – and it did come.”
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rotated his side again after the FA Cup win over Watford, with only Eric Bailly keeping his place in the side to face a physical Burnley.
Edinson Cavani returned from a 3 match suspension for a racially sensitive social media post and was named in a physically imposing starting line-up for the game at Turf Moor.
Robbie Brady lashed a shot over the bar in the first action of the game after a diagonal ball had beaten Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Harry Maguire had to be alert to deny Chris Wood a shooting opportunity as Burnley appeared to be targeting the United right back with direct balls.
Bruno Fernandes had the first shot for United after 17 minutes, but his effort was tame and easily collected by Nick Pope after he met Luke Shaw’s cross.
Wood’s goal bound shot took a deflection of Eric Bailly and went behind the goal after United lost possession to concede a corner.
Martial had a great chance to open the scoring after breaking free with Matt Lowton in front of him but his early attempt at a curling shot went well wide.
Complex VAR drama at Turf Moor pivotal
Brady then took out Cavani after the Uruguayan threatened to break through on the edge of the D after Luke Shaw had scythed down Johann Berg Gudmundsson close to the United box.
Both incidents occurred in the same attack and Kevin Friend initially booked Brady before VAR intervened and advised him to look back at both incidents.
There was a lengthy review by Friend before Brady’s booking was cancelled out despite looking like a red card because it was in the same phase of play as the earlier Shaw challenge but happened later.
And Shaw was lucky to only be booked meaning Burnley won the earlier free kick and Brady’s later foul had to be disregarded.
Maguire thought he has scored after 36 minutes after he got on the end of a Shaw cross at the back post but it was ruled out for a push on Erik Pieters.
Martial forced a diving save from Pope who tipped away his long range lofted effort at the end of the first half.
United were improved after the break and found space to hurt Burnley but they could not breach the Burnley defence despite being camped in front of the box – Fernandes twice had long range efforts saved by Pope before the hour mark.
Dwight McNeil replaced Brady after 65 minutes and Cavani lifted the ball wide of the back post after Shaw’s corner fell to him after a block by a Burnley defender.
Steady improvement for Manchester United who get reward for their second half improvement at Burnley
The opener came after 71 minutes after steadily increasing United pressure when Marcus Rashford, otherwise anonymous on the United right side, lifted a cross towards the edge of the box where Paul Pogba was unmarked.
Pogba’s volleyed shot from 16 yards out took a wicked deflection off Lowton which deceived Pope why had already dived to his right to intercept for only his third goal of the season.
Rashford was later replaced by Mason Greenwood for the last 10 minutes while Chris Wood came off for Matej Vydra at the same time.
Burnley had been unable to recover from going behind at Turf Moor and hadn’t scored any late goals this term.
Martial was denied by James Tarkowski who slid in to stop the Frenchman having a clear shot at Pope’s goal.
Josh Brownhill shot wide while Lowton earlier had a cross into the area saved by De Gea and Vydra struck the side netting after his shot was deflected by Bailly.
Jay Rodriguez was Burnley’s last throw of the dice, coming on for Ashley Barnes with 2 minutes to go.
Maguire escaped a penalty examination by VAR for handball before Scott McTominay replaced Fernandes as the Reds looked to protect their precious lead.
There was more late penalty area drama when Burnley threw the kitchen sink at United in injury time but Tarkowski didn’t get a clean contact on the ball in their best chance – a late free kick taken by Pope.
Martial’s last minute shot was tame and blocked by Pope as United returned to the Premier League summit.
His last action could be costly for United as he seemed to pull a hamstring after that shot and was replaced by Axel Tuanzebe in an injury blow – and Nemanja Matic also went down with what looked like a groin issue as United saw out the game comfortably.
GOAL – Burnley 0, Manchester United 1
Burnley 0, Man Utd 1: 71. Paul Pogba’s volley fro Marcus Rashford’s cross took a wicked deflection off Matt Lowton and deceived Nick Pope who had already dived across his area.
MATCH STATS – Burnley 0, Manchester United 1
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters, Gudmundsson, Brownhill, Westwood, Brady (McNeil 65), Wood (Vydra 80), Barnes (Rodriguez 88)
Burnley subs not used: Norris, Cork, Stephens, Bardsley, Long, Benson
Booked: Westwood 62 (foul on Bruno Fernandes)
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, Pogba, Matic, Rashford (Greenwood 80), Fernandes (McTominay 89), Martial (Tuanzebe 90+5), Cavani
Man Utd subs not used: Henderson, Mata, Fred, James, Telles, van de Beek
Booked: Shaw 32 (foul on Johann Berg Gudmundsson), Fernandes 45+3
Goal: Pogba 71
Referee: Kevin Friend