Manchester United moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a 1-0 win away at Burnley on Tuesday. It was a hard-fought contest, with few chances for either side, but Paul Pogba’s second half strike proved enough to snatch what could prove an invaluable victory for the visitors.
The first half was a tight, tetchy affair, which United shaded without creating a clear-cut chance. An early snapshot from Bruno Fernandes was comfortably caught by Nick Pope, before Matthew Lowton fortuitously blocked an Anthony Martial overhead kick with his back. At the other end, Burnley’s best chance came when Eric Bailly deflected a low Chris Wood drive wide of the target.
It was a fractious game, with the referee having more than his fair share of decisions to make. Midway through the first half, he was called upon to review two red card appeals in the same passage of play, when Luke Shaw raised his studs to an opponent seconds before Robbie Brady appeared to deny Edinson Cavani an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Shaw was booked, absolving Brady from any further sanction.
United thought they’d taken the lead 10 minutes before the interval, when a short corner was swung back into the Burnley box by Shaw, and powered home off the well-proportioned forehead of Harry Maguire. Alas, he was adjudged, rather harshly, to have fouled Erik Pieters before winning the header, and the goal was chalked off. Shortly before halftime, Anthony Martial unleashed a spectacular dipping effort from long-range, which Pope did well to turn over the top.
United were comfortably on top early in the second half, though the final ball remained lacking. Edinson Cavani cut a frustrated figure up top, and at one point looked set to stab the ball home, only to end up in a tangle with Martial.
It took until the final 20 minutes, but eventually United found the breakthrough. Paul Pogba capped an impressive performance with a goal, arriving late to the edge of the box to volley a Rashford cross home, assisted by a late deflection off the leg of Lowton. Despite the good fortune, the goal had been coming, and Burnley could have few complaints.
The hosts rallied to give United a late scare, with Josh Brownhill and Matěj Vydra both squandering late chances for an equaliser. The best chance fell to James Tarkowski in the midst of a goalmouth scramble, but the England centre-half couldn’t make clean contact with the bouncing ball, and ended up scuffing his shot from point-blank range.