Jay Rodriguez delivers Burnley point against wasteful Manchester United


Manchester United are in surrender mode. This was the latest second‑half capitulation, which is clearly not good enough, sparked by elite players such as Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Raphaël Varane, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes being unable to kill off opponents who sit bottom of the Premier League.

As against Middlesbrough when being knocked out of the FA Cup on Friday, the plot was lost in the contest’s second 45 minutes. Burnley ended with a precious point handed to them by weak defending for Jay Rodriguez’s strike that cancelled out Pogba’s opener, and by United’s inability to fire thereafter.

Ralf Rangnick’s team may have lost only once in nine league games but with West Ham beating Watford they slip to fifth. At the business end of the campaign wins are the demand.

Rangnick chose to point to the Varane header and Burnley own goal that were both scrubbed off. “We scored three goals,” the interim manager said. “That is different to Friday. The second one that was disallowed, the linesman flagged foul but 10 seconds after that incident. This was a very soft decision I must say.”

Rangnick did then centre on United’s fundamental flaw. “In the second half we were not aggressive enough,” he said. “It was clear they would come out and be aggressive. The way we allowed them to score, we didn’t defend the whole situation. A frustrating night for us because we should have won that game comfortably. In the end it was also a little question of luck. One point for a performance like this is just not enough.”

Rain swept across the ground on a classic dank night in sight of the Lancashire moors though it did not dampen the visitors’ spark at first, a Marcus Rashford attempt forcing Nick Pope to make the opening save of the contest.

United struck shortly after, only for it to be disallowed. Fernandes floated in a free-kick and Varane headed home, but to Rangnick’s obvious chagrin Mike Dean was ordered to the monitor and ruled that an offside Maguire had impeded Rodriguez.

Moments later Rangnick’s mood was reversed as his team gave the best riposte. Fernandes, a firefly flitting around, appeared on halfway and volleyed a pass to Rashford on the left. He fed an overlapping Shaw and the left-back’s cross was hammered home by Pogba. It was the France midfielder’s first goal of the season and Burnley were in pieces. United soon beat Pope again – via Ben Mee – but Pogba was adjudged to have fouled Erik Pieters in the buildup so the defender and his side escaped.

Sean Dyche’s side rode their luck. The pattern of United dominance was reminiscent of the Cup tie. By the interval the visitors had unloaded 12 shots, their hosts zero, Burnley illustrating why their last win in this competition came in October. Rangnick, who dropped Cristiano Ronaldo for a first league match under his reign, could be pleased with the mission so far. But now came the second half and the test of not imploding as they had last time out.

Rangnick would have been wise to remind his charges of this before they wandered out. If he did, they paid no heed, as Burnley were all square after 47 minutes. Wout Weghorst’s pivot and pass was as fluid as the slaloming Rodriguez run that took him in on David de Gea before he coolly equalised.

Burnley were now rampant, Weghorst firing off a 25-yard laser that had De Gea skidding across the turf to his right to prevent a second. United were rattled in what had become a test of spirit and desire. If they failed to emerge with three points after previously being firmly in control, an inquiry into why supposedly top-level professionals possess no in-game management would be required.

Pogba, Jadon Sancho, Edinson Cavani and Fernandes all combined in one sequence but the latter misdirected the final ball into Burnley’s area and play broke down. This was United in microcosm since the sides changed ends. As captain, Maguire was anonymous throughout and his pulling down of Rodriguez when he was the last man was lucky to draw only a yellow card.

Rangnick threw on Ronaldo with 22 minutes left, then Jesse Lingard a little later. But after Varane and the Portuguese missed chances, a mortifying ride home was to be endured at the final whistle.

“We have another big game at the weekend [against Liverpool],” Dyche said. “And the second half is something to get our teeth into and remind ourselves we’re a good team.”

Source: The Guardian