On Saturday, Premier League football resumes as Manchester United make a short trip to Turf Moor to face a Burnley side suffering a dip in form.
After a largely impressive first half of the season, the Lancashire club have struggled to see games through in the Premier League. Sean Dyche’s men have yet to win in the last 7 games – losing 3 in the process and although they are seventh in the division, punching way above their weight – there are reasons to feel aggrieved. Dyche has done a fabulous job so far with the North West club but with only 5 points separating them and Arsenal – they have every right to aim to break into the European places, no matter how unrealistic they might seem – on paper.
They have lost the last 2 games at home against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur – but should be up for a tussle when Man United come to town – after earning a well deserved point against them in the reverse fixture in December.
For Manchester United, the football has been picking up steam – but the focus has been centred around the two impending announcements that could boost not only the morale but also the quality within the squad.
Jose Mourinho has reportedly agreed to extend his contract till 2022 – sowing seeds of longevity under the notoriously short-term thinking Jose Mourinho while the first team squad is getting themselves ready to welcome Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez – who could arrive as early as the weekend to vastly improve an already talented yet unrefined group of players with his wealth of experience and match-winning expertise.
Add to that – the recent defeat of Manchester City at the hands of Liverpool, has cut the gap down to 12, keeping United motivated as they go into this final third of the campaign, leading the chasing pack.
Jose Mourinho has no fresh injury concerns for the tip to Turf Moor. The Red Devils will be without the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Eric Bailly (ankle) and Michael Carrick (heart) – with the trio not expected back before the end of the month.
Burnley hope to welcome Scott Arfield back from a tight hamstring but Chris Wood and Stephen Ward (both knee) are still a few days away. Robbie Brady (knee) and Tom Heaton (shoulder) remain sidelined.
Burnley starting XI: Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Cork, Defour; Gudmundsson, Hendrick, Barnes; Vokes
Manchester United starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; Pogba, Matic; Mata, Lingard, Martial; Lukaku
- Burnley have won one of their last 24 matches against Manchester United in all competitions (D10 L13), a 1-0 win in the Premier League in August 2009.
- Man Utd are unbeaten in their last five away PL matches (W4 D1), scoring at least twice each time.
- This will be Sean Dyche’s 100th PL match as a manager.
Ashley Barnes – Burnley
Burnley have played out of their skin to be where they are – but their obvious weaknesses lie in front of goal. Having only managed 19 goals so far in the season, i.e less than a goal per game, the Clarets are among the lowest scorers in the division (only 3 have scored less). They lack a prolific goal-scorer at the top end – meaning they rely too much on a small band of footballers in the first team, which can always drag a side down in the crunch games.
Barnes – with 3 goals to his name, is key to this fixture with his ability to get stuck in and unsettle defenders – in order for Burnley to get something out of Saturday’s encounter.
Jesse Lingard – Manchester United
Jesse Lingard has finally made that ‘step up’ that he was expected to ever since he became a regular in the Man United first team. Always up for a big occasion, the 25-year old has often gone through rough patches in between a good run of performances – struggling to find any sort of consistency to his game which kept him out of the starting eleven more often than not.
But in the last eight weeks, Lingard has come to the fore, not just scoring in ‘a game’ only to vanish for a long period, but building on his form to repeat the same in consecutive fixtures. With double figure goals and assists to his name (combined) for the season already, the Warrington-born Lingard is brimming with confidence and will prove crucial to the visiting team on the counter attack.
United are buoyed by the imminent arrival of a new signing, which is always a good thing. They should have enough in the tank to get maximum points on Saturday.
Burnley 1-3 Manchester United