Positive But Still Pointless at Old Trafford
Saturday 16th January 2010 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets put on a truly impressive performance at Old Trafford against Manchester United yesterday but got no reward for their efforts with Sir Ferguson`s men flattered by their final 3-0 victory. Sir Alex himself said after the game that his side could have been embarrassed and they could have been had we put away one of our numerous chances at key times during this match. Burnley bravely kept United at bay in the first half and could have taken the lead had Fletcher done better with a golden opportunity early in the game. Brave defending kept United frustrated and it was goalless at half-time. Another chance went begging in the second-half for the Clarets, after United were caught out by a stunning attack that left Nugent clear with only Van Der Sar to beat. The on-loan striker from Portsmouth though put his shot agonisingly wide much to the relief of Sir Alex who nearly choked on his chewing gum. Sadly for the Clarets a few minutes later just past the hour mark we would find ourselves cruelly 2-0 behind after two goals in five minutes from first Berbatov and then Rooney. We bravely battled on but our bad luck continued when this time the woodwork got in the way. Thompson, who had been given his chance to impress the new gaffer after he replaced the injured Fletcher in the first half came close with an header with just 7 minutes remaining but the ball hit the post. Had that gone in it would have set up a tense finale but in the end it wasn`t to be and deep into stoppage time United got their third goal when Diouf headed home.
In the end Brian Laws would have been delighted with our performance in this baptism of fire but disappointed that once again we did not take our chances. One concern though will be Steven Fletcher who was fouled by Valencia in the first half and soon after had to be replaced. The news last night was that he immediately went to hospital for a precautionary X-ray on his injured ankle with Laws remaining confident that the injury was not serious.
Clarets fans though can be proud of our team yesterday when you consider the depth in quality not to mention the multi-million pound worth and high salaries of the United players. Not bad for a team capped on salaries of no more than £15k/week. Rooney`s £150,000/week equates to virtually our whole starting eleven put together! Yes, let us indeed be proud and let us once more take a look at that cowardly and totally unprofessional Mick McCarthy who decided to 'chuck one in` and field a weakened Wolves reserve side against the Red Devils at Old Trafford recently. Suck on that Mick! We may have lost but we tried with our best team possible and all our fans came away with lots of positives to discuss and their heads held high. A far cry from Wolves fans feeling cheated they had just wasted £40-£50 on a ticket to watch a bunch of fringe players.
We can indeed take many positives from this match but in the end we have still not got our first away win of the season and we have not won now in ten league games. These are very worrying times for the Clarets with those relegation places getting ever closer. We are now in 15th spot just two points ahead of third from bottom club, West Ham. All Clarets fans will be hoping we soon do not drop another place with our discredited former manager`s team, Bolton playing Arsenal in one of the Sunday matches today at the Reebok. Bolton play Arsenal twice in four days and will face up to them again at the Emirates on Wednesday night. If the Gunners take six points off the Trotters, Bolton will still be two points behind the Clarets (albeit with a game in hand) when we both play each other at the Reebok in our next League match on Tuesday 26th January. That is certainly going to be one pot-boiler of a match and one in which if we win will ensure Brian Laws becomes an instant hero.
The Clarets Team Sheet
Very much as expected Brian Laws played it safe with his first team selection. David Edgar though was given his Premier League debut for the Clarets in the centre of defence with Andre Bikey away in the African Nations Cup, Steven Caldwell suffering from a persistent groin strain and Clarke Carlisle still struggling with a thigh strain. Edgar was probably recalling his time at Newcastle when he scored at the Theatre of Dreams three years ago as he lined up to face the current League Champions.
There were no other surprises in the team selection and although Chris McCann was understood to be making good progress recovering from his cruciate and medial ligament injury it was a little too soon for him to feature in this game; a match he had targeted for a return.
David Nugent, possibly playing his last game for the Clarets with his loan spell at the club due to finish on the 22nd January, was also in the starting eleven although was being played on the right-hand side of midfield. Laws has made it plain that he would like to extend Nugent`s loan until the end of the season but the ball is firmly in Pompey`s court. One thing is clear if he does return he will only be able to play for Portsmouth since Football league rules prevent him playing for a third team in the same season.
Both Tyrone Mears (5 yellows) and Jordan (second bookable offence) returned to the side after their automatic one match suspension following their misdemeanors at Goodison Park over Christmas. They had sat out our previous game away to MK Dons.
The Clarets lined up as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Edgar, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, McDonald, Elliott, Fletcher, Nugent
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Eckersley, Gudjonsson, Guerrero, Blake, Thompson
The Full Match Report
The previous record gate for a match involving the Clarets was set way back in December 1960 at Goodison Park. 74,867 fans that day saw the Clarets defeat the Toffees 3-0 thanks to a brace of goals from Jimmy Robson and one from John Connelly. At long last 49 years later that record has been broken. Nearly 3000 Clarets fans packed the away end at Old Trafford and basically out sung about 72000 United fans with a new gate record of 75,120 now being the one to beat.
The Clarets fans were in fine humorous voice too as referee Lee Probert got the game underway. Renditions of 'We Support Our Local Team`, "We got more Cash than You" and "There`s only One Barry Kilby" were probably lost on the prawn sandwich brigade but at least non-plastic proper football supporting fans would have appreciated the cutting edge cynicism and humour.It was the Clarets who started brightly taking the game to United and Nugent in particular was involved in a lot of the early action.
Chris Eagles on the break after seven minutes of play found Nugent. The on-loan Portsmouth striker then picked up Fletcher with a delightful diagonal cross. Fletcher steaming towards goal with the United defence caught out and charging back was clear but frustratingly pulled his left-footed shot wide.
Eagles who was clearly up for this match and trying to impress his former boss Sir Alex Ferguson seemed to be on fire and at times was dazzling. He got in yet another superb pass which just failed to reach Nugent who had charged in behind the United defence.
United though certainly had their chances with Valencia in particular being a problem down the right. The former Wigan star got in a number of crosses which tested our defence. Duff and Edgar though were looking solid snuffing out a lot of the danger. Jenson had very little to do other than the odd routine save, the most dangerous of which was a shot hit low by Nani
A bad tackle by Valencia on Fletcher 10 minutes before half time gave Brian Laws and Clarets fans palpitations. It was clear he had injured his ankle and couldn`t carry on. He hobbled off the pitch soon after to be replaced by Thompson.
Jensen was finally tested in first half-stoppage time when a cross from Valencia found Nani who attempted an overhead kick. The Beast got a finger tip to the ball and it flew to safety past the post.
The Clarets would have been proud of their performance as the half-time whistle went. We had contained United and played some delightful football and could have been in front had we taken our chances. So it was 0-0 at half time then with no indication thankfully of any ill effects from the trauma of losing Owen Coyle to Bolton.
The Clarets made no changes for the start of the second half and anyway there was no reason to with everybody putting in 100% and looking bright and effective.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Clarets once again looked lively. Eagles on a charge towards goal tested Van der Sar. Steven Thompson who was also proving a handful for the United defence then knocked down the ball to find Elliott. Elliott set Nugent free but his shot from the corner of the penalty area was not strong enough and another chance went begging.
United were always looking dangerous on the counter attack though and Rooney fired over the bar to keep the Burnley defence on its toes. It was Eagles though who continued to ask questions of the United defence. Going on yet another charge up field he set up Nugent with a half-chance but Jonny Evans was quick to spot the danger and tackled the on-loan striker before he could unleash a shot.
At this point in time United looked nervous and their attempts on goal lacked power and accuracy. Berbatov had made space for himself in the box but could only boot the ball against the outside of the post. Just past the hour mark, the Clarets had a glorious chance to take lead on 63 minutes.
Once again the move was started by Eagles on the break with the speedy winger again opening up the Red Devils defence. It was Nugent again who picked up the pass getting the better of Neville and charging towards goal with only the keeper to beat. His shot though was once again off target and the ball flew agonisingly wide.
Eagles then came close to equalising after some nice approach work involving Elliott. Once more though despite making mincemeat of the United defence he could not get the better of Van der Sar.
If you don`t take these chances you will get punished and so it would prove for the Clarets who would now find themselves 2-0 down within five minutes.
United`s first goal on 64 minutes came from a shot angled towards goal by Berbatov after a Rooney pass. Even then our luck deserted us with the ball taking a deflection off Duff to deceive Jensen
Five minutes later and the now rampant United had gone further ahead. A shot from Berbatov had been saved by Jensen but the ball was picked up by Rooney and with a cool head he had plenty of time to decide on his shot with the ball neatly placed into the bottom corner to put United 2-0 up.
There was now a danger we could fold but we held our nerve and once more gradually began to take the game to United.
With just seven minutes of play remaining we nearly got a goal back which had we scored would have set up a tense and exciting finale. A cross by Jordan found Thompson but he could only head the ball against the post. We were not getting much luck with even the woodwork now coming to United`s rescue.
Deep into stoppage time United decided to rub our noses in it and scored again. A pass by the dangerous Valencia found substitute, Mame Diouf who simply lobbed the ball over Jensen to make it 3-0. On close inspection Diouf could have been offside but clearly this was not going to be our day and the goal stood. This was just time to add insult to injury when the Clarets were denied what looked to be a cast-iron penalty. A free kick taken by Mears was touched onto the post by Van der Sar to give Elliott a chance to score. Neville though clearly handled the ball in an attempt to clear the danger but the referee thought otherwise.
That was it, 3-0 to United, a score line which clearly flattered the Red Devils but one which continues our winless streak on the road but at least we did ourselves proud and can hold our heads up high.
Manchester United: Van Der Sar, Neville, Evra, Brown, Berbatov (Owen 74), Rooney (Diouf 74), Carrick (Anderson 64), Nani, Scholes, Evans, Valencia.
Subs Not Used: Park, F DA Silva, R Da Silva, Kuszczak
Scorers: Berbatov (64 mins), Rooney (69 mins), Diouf (90+1 mins)
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Duff, Edgar, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles (Blake 83), McDonald (Gudjonsson 74), Elliott, Fletcher (Thompson 36), Nugent
Subs Not Used: Penny, Kalvenes, Eckersley, Guerrero
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)
Chris Eagles was on fire throughout the match and seemed to relish his return to Old Trafford. It was also good to hear the United fans applaud him off the pitch when he was substituted late on in the game.
David Edgar also had an excellent debut in the centre of defence but his partner, Michael Duff was outstanding. Duffo is clearly determined to hold onto his position in the side with competition hotting up in the back four following news also that the Clarets appear to be looking for a new centre half. The club confirmed this week they had looked at bringing Sheffield United defender, Matthew Kilgallon to Turf Moor but were not prepared to break their wage structure to get him.
Michael Duff has taken advantage of his chance to impress following the injuries to Clarke Carlisle and Steven Caldwell and he has performed well in the centre of defence since getting back in the side. He thoroughly deserves our Star Player award for his efforts at Old Trafford.