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Manchester United 3-1 Burnley: Reds outplayed but gain win regardless

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Manchester United were largely outplayed by Burnley at Old Trafford, but some big misses from their opponents and a Chris Smalling brace allowed them to pick up the points.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Tempted though it would be to copy and paste the West Ham match report, or indeed the match report from any game since Van Gaal took over at the club, we should look at this in detail, as tedious as that weekly chore has become lately. The days of actually looking forward to United games seem to be a long way off now, but what the hell, we're used to it.

It was a pretty rancid performance all round, but Chris Smalling (!) managed to bag himself a brace, before Burnley chucked away the game late on with a needless penalty which Robin van Persie duly hammered home. Ander Herrera managed to get a game through injury, and Wayne Rooney ended up playing as a defensive midfielder. For most of the game, United were shown up by a side employing the bizarre tactics of fielding an organised, cohesive unit of well-motivated players playing in their best positions.

United got off to the perfect start as Smalling,who had just replaced Phil Jones due to an early injury, rose highest to nod Falcao's header back across goal into the net, but they weren't to build on it much as Burnley soon established a foothold in the game. Ferocious pressing and intelligent passing from United's opponents left them chasing shadows and it wasn't long before parity was restored, with Smalling this time the villain. Danny Ings slipped away from his marker all too easily and powered home a header from close-range to give the visitors a deserved equaliser.

United have long been plagued since the late-Fergie era of being remarkably casual when leading the game and only really waking up when the opposition have scored. In this game, we couldn't even manage that, as Burnley looked more like the home side and United struggled to string a pair of passes together. Daley Blind going off injured looked to make things even worse, but Ander Herrera came on to widespread cheers to replace him. That meant Wayne Rooney in defensive midfield. This is where are at the moment.

Unsurprisingly, United struggled to control the game, yet somehow managed to snatch a second goal to put themselves in front at the stroke of half-time, Smalling rising above the Burnley defenders and planting a towering header into the net, continuing the theme of winning while playing badly, if taking it to new heights altogether.

United didn't improve much after the break, and were reliant on David de Gea and woeful finishing to prevent Burnley from scoring again. Some shocking defending saw Ings free in the six-yard box, but the Spaniard was able to keep his effort out before the ball rebounded over the bar.

Angel di Maria had been a peripheral figure in the game, with little coming off for him, but as time was winding down, he scampered free on the counter and was needlessly brought down in the area to give United a penalty. Robin van Persie duly dispatched an unsaveable effort into the bottom corner and United hung on to claim yet another smash-and-grab win.

It's almost impressive how we can snatch results while playing this badly, but our general play and all-round confidence is looking worse, not better, with each passing game. Louis van Gaal has to try something new, and quickly.