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Starting XI: Burnley vs. Manchester United

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The Reds could go top with a result at Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everything that you need to know ahead of Tuesday’s match:

(1) No extra motivation needed for this mid-week trip to Turf Moor: if Manchester United pick up any points against Burnley, they climb atop the Premier League table.

(2) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rang the changes in this weekend’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Watford. Manchester United started with Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Fred on the bench — though the first three on that list had to come on in a surprisingly tight affair. Unfortunately, Ole also revealed that Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelöf, and Luke Shaw are injured.

(3) Eric Bailly might be another addition to the injury list. He came off shortly before halftime with an apparent concussion after colliding with Dean Henderson. Thankfully, Bailly said afterwards that it was just a neck injury and seemed to downplay its seriousness. That would be excellent news for Manchester United — not just because of Lindelöf’s injury, but also because Bailly has started the last three Premier League matches and the last thing he needs is another stretch on the sidelines.

(4) Solskjaer on the Burnley match:

We’ll have the boys ready again. Some of these will play probably, and there’ll be a few new fresh legs as well that managed to get a rest tonight. The staff are doing an amazing job. They look after the players fantastically. But the players are looking after themselves as well. Don’t forget that it’s hard times for everyone, difficult times for everyone, but going home, recovering, getting ready for the next game is the main thing right now.

(5) Earlier in the season, Burnley looked to be headed for trouble. The Clarets picked up just one point from their first six Premier League matches and sat bottom of the table — below even Sheffield United — at Halloween. From that point on, though, everything changed for Burnley. In their last nine league matches, they’ve only lost twice: the annual 5-0 beatdown at Manchester City and a tough 1-0 reverse against Leeds United.

(6) Coincidentally — or not — center back Ben Mee missed those first six matches with a thigh injury. Since his return, Burnley are only allowing 0.89 goals per game, buoyed by Mee’s knack for clearing the ball from dangerous positions. Alongside the physicality and aerial strength of James Tarkowski, Mee’s brilliant positioning keeps Burnley secure at the back.

(7) Not much changes at Burnley. Sean Dyche’s side has never bothered much with possession (just 42.9% this season) and sits deep at all times. The Clarets use big, strong players who throw their weight around and look to hit the opposition from set pieces. That could be a problem for Manchester United. Manchester City scored twice from set pieces in last week’s EFL Cup loss, which has become a recurring issue for the Reds. The Guardian notes that United have conceded the third-most set piece goals in the Premier League this season.

(8) A new ownership group, ALK Capital, took over Burnley shortly before New Year’s. Interestingly, ALK previously invested in two football technology firms — AiScout and Player LENS — which likely heralds a more analytical approach in the future. So far, new chairman Alan Pace has struck all the right notes, pledging to keep Burnley a community club and hinting at some available funds for the January transfer window.

(9) Any financial backing for Dyche would be a big change. The longtime Burnley boss has worked miracles on a minuscule budget, wringing out mid-table finishes from a group of Premier League cast-offs and lower-league bargains.

(10) After the FA Cup win over MK Dons, Sean Dyche criticized his strikers’ profligacy in front of goal. For Chris Wood, that’s been a season-long problem. The 29-year-old has underperformed his xG by more than three goals — the third highest discrepancy in the Premier League. Only Kevin De Bruyne and Ollie Watkins lag their xG by more, which at least puts Wood in good company.

(11) Burnley’s left side — left back Charlie Taylor (hamstring) and left midfielder Dwight McNeil (hamstring) — missed the win over MK Dons and might not be ready for Tuesday. Compounding the club’s injury problem, four unnamed Clarets are also out with Covid-19.