A Classy Finish From Diouf; Not Much From United
Revenge! OK, it sounds somewhat pathetic that we want to avenge a defeat against a newly promoted team struggling to avoid relegation but it still felt good. However, a more convincing performance would have been nice, especially as Burnley lost nine of their previous ten games on the road, conceding 31 in the process.
They shipped in another three as their defence, deprived of a few key players, looked suspect throughout and caved in midway through the second half but what they really have reasons to regret is not taking their chances as they are unlikely to come up against such a headless, one-paced defence at Old Trafford.
Yes, those of you who did not see the game guessed correctly: Fergie selected Neville again. A Brown-Evans centre-back pairing is a risk to say the least - Evans lacks experience, Brown lacks intelligence and direction - but to deploy Neville alongside them is close to suicidal.
He was outpaced time and time again and his lack of mobility was also cruelly exposed. Brown delivered the usual performance: usual when he's not playing with Rio Ferdinand. He was all over place, dragging down Jonny Evans as well, even though the Irishman started the game well, he looks as though he'll soon be back at his sharpest self.
But with the return of Edwin van der Sar we had a confident, competent goalie which at least reduced the aerial threat - though Burnley usually insisted on keeping it on the ground. But they could have had two or three goals, we have to admit that.
United, meanwhile, could have scored six or seven but it looks like our players badly need a little target practice as the shooting was distinctly wayward. Nani, a surprise inclusion, started the game well and Valencia was always available on the right but we did not have an imposing centre-forward who is a real aerial threat to convert his crosses. I'm a huge fan of Berbatov but despite his height he's never been a very effective header of the ball, not even in his Spurs days.
He missed the biggest chance before the opener as he brilliantly created an opening for himself then slammed a shot against the post with the outside of his left foot. Central midfield hindered United's ability to create chances: Scholes, again, had one of his worse days and Carrick stayed way too deep, probably on Fergie's instructions but that was not enough to stop Burnley's mobile, skilful attack to canter through our midfield which lacked the bite of either Anderson or the suspended Fletcher.
Anderson did come on later, as an attacking midfielder, but United were already two up: first Rooney played in Berbatov on 64 minutes and the Bulgarian's shot took a deflection of Duff and landed in the net. A few minutes later Berbatov got through again, fired from a difficult angle, the ball came off Jensen into the path of Rooney who took two touches before slamming it into the corner.
Game over though Burnley did not give up and created a few good chances. United sent on Mame Diouf and Michael Owen and while the latter did nothing to enhance his chances of holding down a regular place, the former scored a brilliant goal with a looping header that flew over Brian Jensen and into the net. The subsequent cartwheels were mightily impressive as well.
And that's it. A workmanlike performance with the two main strikers putting in impressive shifts, along with Antonio Valencia. Evra was good, Nani faded dramatically after a bright start, central midfielders were poor and the defending was dreadful. The return of Edwin and the classy finish from Diouf are huge positives - bring on City!
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