It’s four matches on the trot without a win for Manchester United under the stewardship of Louis Van Gaal as the Red Devils were held to a scoreless draw by Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday. All in all, it was a rather fair result, although there are bound to be more than a few football fans in Lancashire this afternoon who would disagree with that assessment. Their struggle to conjure up more than a few glimpses of glamorous football was a real indictment of just how far United have to go, and although their manager has made it clear he’s aware how long it will take to get them where they want to be, it doesn’t make it any less painful for the fans. Too often, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young failed to bring anything coherent or remotely threatening to the match when they had the ball at their feet, and their lack of a cutting edge really hurt them against a side they really should be expecting to beat. And as for Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, with their supply often cut off from the wings, they had to rely on trying to capitalise from set-pieces or indeed attempting to bring long, lofted balls under control against a hard-hitting, no-nonsense defence. Of course, it’s no surprise United looked poor, as a series of unfortunate circumstances with new signings hasn’t helped their attempt to build a new side, but it remains an odd spectacle nonetheless. And it’s one that even Van Gaal could soon start to feel the heat from.
During the 2009/10 campaign, Burnley made home advantage count with a surprise win in the Premier League, and with United feeling the effects of instability and poor form, it didn’t seem at all beyond the realms of possibility that they’d repeat that feat at the weekend. Unfortunately, though, the newly promoted club just couldn’t repeat history. Nevertheless, Sean Dyche is sure to be happy with a point against one of Britain’s most prestigious outfits, even though a small part of him is likely to feel as though they missed a trick. Because they had chances to win it. Right from the very off, in fact, it looked as though that was indeed their game-plan. Hitting the crossbar through David Jones from in the third minute, Burnley smelled blood the minute they stepped out onto the pitch, and just 22 minutes later, it was Jones again who tested De Gea with a delightful long-range snapshot that had the goalkeeper flexing all his muscles to tip it over the bar. And despite waning slightly as the contest wore on, they never gave up on every loose ball as the continued to hassle and harry Van Gaal’s team right up until the final whistle. They had United on the ropes at times, but they just couldn’t land the knockout punch early enough. Mind you, this point will be cherished and it’ll give them great heart and belief that they belong in this league.
For anybody half-watching the match, seeing Angel Di Maria stroll off the pitch in the 70th minute with the scores level might well have given the impression that his debut just hadn’t gone according to plan. But that would be to miss out on all the little intricacies he did get right. Because, to be fair to their newest signing, he was by far their best player. Clipping in a couple of cute passes that the front two should have capitalised on better, his vision and flair were perfectly visible in Lancashire on Saturday afternoon. So too was his pace and work-rate. Dropping back, particularly, when United still looked as though they might nab a goal in the opening 20 minutes or so, he was eager to help move the ball forward from deep and kick-start United into life. In essence, despite the visitors’ defensive frailties, the former Real Madrid star still looks a wonderful player who can do great things for this club. He just won’t be able to do it all on his own.
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