As the full time whistle blew at the Turf Moor there was not one Manchester United player or fan who felt 100% confident of a result. Burnley had played well for the majority of the match, and had only fallen behind from another Anthony Martial strike, his 11th of the season. Despite efforts from crosses, corners, and build up play, the claret and blue were held off successfully by United, who created very little on the day.
But how should United fans look back on their side barely scraping by a mid-table team?
They should be glad.
The build up play simply wasn’t there for the United attackers today. Sloppy passes in midfield dissolved the connection in transition, and the service was nearly nonexistent from wingers.
In the 54th minute Romelu Lukaku controlled the ball enough to create some space, give his teammates time to make a run, and then send the ball to Martial, who sent the only goal of the game right into the upper left corner of Nick Pope’s net. It was United’s first of two shots on target, and ultimately the difference in the match.
As ugly as some wins are they are wins nonetheless. Three points were exactly what United needed today as they are not only looking to catch up to their noisy neighbors Manchester City, but also fend off Chelsea and Liverpool from their second place position.
On United’s 25 game unbeaten run in the Premier League last season there was still plenty to moan about. Why? Because instead of ugly wins there were a lot of ugly draws. 0-0 and 1-1 score lines seemed to plague United for two seasons under Van Gaal, and then his predecessor Mourinho. The 2016-17 campaign finished with 15 draws in the league, 3 away from their most ever in a season. Now, United are 2nd in the table behind City, suddenly the title race seems to have life in it after City’s 3-4 loss at Anfield, and the Reds are grinding out results.
It’s always easier to remember the past fondly when you don’t have to live it anymore. For Manchester United staff, players, and fans it’s a bit harder to escape the past than it is for other football fans. However, what the United faithful should remember in this moment in time is that ugly wins are as much a part of the club history as silverware. Many fondly remembered games were ugly wins. In fact, ugly wins are almost required to mount a title run. And a title run doesn’t seem as impossible as it did a week ago.