1. Burnley is a difficult match for any team, more so when they’re at home at Turf Moor. Not many would have said that the United defence would have grinded out a clean sheet against the aerial threat that this Burnley team poses to opposing teams, particularly since we have been less than perfect this year when defending set-pieces. Yet, they have. The back-five held the for extremely well in the second half – after not having much to do in the first – when Burnley threw the kitchen sink at our defence. The central defenders headed everything that came their way and Young and Williams – standing in for the regular full backs were excellent, particularly Williams, both when defending and also going forward. Our defence has been criticised this season, also in this column, so they deserved to be mentioned first. Credit where it’s due.
2. I have to highlight the performance of Martial over the last two matches especially. The lad seems to be growing into his central striking role and adding more to his armoury. Not only he is scoring regularly and looking a menace around that penalty area but he is the player who starts our pressing from the front. I have never seen Tony covering as much ground without the ball as he is doing these days and his hard work is infectious to the rest of the team. Another aspect of his game that he has developed – similar to Firminho – is his retreating to an attacking midfield position to help in the build-up of attacks. This manoeuvre is key for United to add an extra man in midfield and facilitate short passes in creating attacking play. People tend to forget that Tony is only 24 years old and he still has room for improvement but he’s maturing into a proper leader of our front-line. Long may this continue.
3. Make no mistake, this was a big game for United. Having lost only to Watford in the previous eight matches, we needed to win against Burnley to put pressure on the teams ahead of us and remain in touch with that fourth place. The way things turned out, it was an even bigger match for Ole, whose decisions before the match with the formation meant that he would have gotten a great deal of criticism if United lost this match. Ole decided to replace both full backs against Burnley, but apart from Pogba’s absence from the squad – and I won’t get into any speculation on that – he also brought back Matic to replace the injured McTominay and introduced James in place of Greenwood, who had caught the eye I the last matches with his goal prowess. The result proves Ole right and one has to appreciate the way he is nurturing Mason Greenwood and at the same time keeping his feet firmly on the ground, similar to what Sir Alex used to do with so many young players who made it from our Academy to the first team. I have sometimes pointed out some areas where I disagreed with Ole, but I always stood firm on one view, Ole is the man to take United back to the glory days.
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