Manchester United close out 2019 with a trip to Turf Moor to take on Burnley. Here’s everything that you need to know ahead of the match.
(1) The Reds bounced back from a shock defeat at Watford with a 4-1 win over Newcastle on Boxing Day. After falling behind via Matty Longstaff — again — the United front line snapped into action as Anthony Martial grabbed a brace, Mason Greenwood belted one in off the woodwork, and Marcus Rashford headed in his 15th goal of the season.
(2) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer held Paul Pogba out of the starting eleven, only bringing him on at halftime to replace the injured Scott McTominay. The boss on his plans for easing Pogba back into a regular role:
With Paul, it’s too early to demand too much of him. He has worked really hard, but we will have to drip-feed him in and gradually play him more and more.
(3) Bad news for McTominay. In a boisterous start to the match, one filled with tackles and a yellow card, the 23-year-old injured his knee ligaments and left Old Trafford on crutches. Amazingly, McTominay gutted it out until halftime — hopefully, that extra time on the pitch didn’t make the situation worse. With Pogba presumably in line for a start at Turf Moor, will Solskjaer prefer Fred or the forgotten Nemanja Matić as his partner?
Photo: McTominay leaving Old Trafford on crutches #mulive [@jvottonen] pic.twitter.com/AP8FchzOji— utdreport (@utdreport) December 26, 2019
(4) Much has been made about Manchester United’s struggles against lesser opposition and, in an interview with the Daily Mail, Jesse Lingard suggests it might be a problem with the club’s mindset:
It’s strange. Maybe it’s a mindset thing. Maybe it’s our mentality going into the match thinking we’ve already won the game. If we keep the consistency and mentality we had against City and Tottenham, I don’t see why we can’t win every game.
It seems like our mentality changes. To keep that consistency throughout the rest of the season when we come against the mid-table teams, we need to have the same mentality that we did going into the City and Tottenham game. When we start with energy and on the front foot, we’ll cause teams problems all day long.
(5) Sean Dyche’s penchant for direct, bruising football isn’t always popular, but it’s kept Burnley in the Premier League for four seasons. Dyche took over at Turf Moor seven years ago, twice guiding them to promotion to the top-flight (and surviving a relegation with the full support of his board and fans). Burnley’s continued success proves that there’s no one right way to play the game.
(6) Critics might decry Burnley’s physicality, but they are thriving despite a small market and negligible net spend. And, yes, that even includes results like Boxing Day’s 1-0 loss at Everton. In Carlo Ancelotti’s first match at Goodison Park, the hosts dominated possession (68%) and outshot the Clarets 21-6. Still, with the breakthrough not coming until the 80th minute, Burnley nearly picked up a valuable point despite being well off their best.
(7) Burnley usually boast a strong defense, but there are some worrying signs of slowdown from this backline of Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, and Erik Pieters. After leading the Premier League in blocked shots for the last three seasons, the Clarets rank just 6th in that category so far in 2019/20. Burnley concede lots of possession to the opposition, so those blocks play a big role in keeping them on the right side of the scoreline.
(8) Of course, when all else fails, Burnley can shut down a game with the best of them...
5 - There were just five shots in today's match between Bournemouth and Burnley, the fewest recorded in a Premier League game since detailed shot collection began in 2003-04. Stratagem. pic.twitter.com/bb1lT4pNcm— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 21, 2019
(9) As if Burnley at Turf Moor weren’t difficult enough, Manchester United will play this match just two days after the win over Newcastle. The busy festive period — with many teams playing on both Boxing Day and the 28th — has come under fire from some of the Premier League’s top managers. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp went first:
It is absolutely not OK. There’s no reason why more teams do not get more than 48 hours between Premier League games. None of the managers have a problem playing on Boxing Day, but playing on the 26th and 28th is a crime.
(10) Tottenham Hotspur’s José Mourinho, speaking just after his side’s 2-1 win over Brighton, echoed Klopp’s sentiments:
I cannot imagine that these boys can play in less than 48 hours. It is a crime that they are going to play football again in 48 hours. It’s against every rule of physiology and biology.
(11) Solskjaer, for his part, hopes that the young age of this United squad will provide an extra boost ahead of Saturday’s match:
It’s a different type of game in 48 hours — Burnley away — and you need to roll your sleeves up and take the fight. That’s the positive thing that you’ve got young kids because they will recover quicker. It’s harder for a 30- or 32-year-old, but for these boys they’re ready in 48 hours.