Black February Continues at Old Trafford!
Wednesday 11th February 2015 @7:45 pm Kick-Off
It has been a miserable time for Clarets fans this month. Not only did we manage to pick up only four points from the twelve on offer over four consecutive games against clubs fighting to avoid the drop but then by the closure of the January window on Monday 2nd February we had failed to sign anybody other than making Michael Keane a permanent signing! Indeed with Nathaniel Chalobah sent packing and returning back to Chelsea after completing his loan we actually finished up with a smaller squad at the start of the window than at the end of it! As if to be punished for the club`s failure and silly excuses we then lost the services of Dean Marney after picking up a cruciate ligament injury in the recent home game against West Brom that will keep him out for the rest of the season. It was always clear that we needed to supplement centre midfield otherwise we would be scuppered with no cover should Marney or Jones become injured or suspended! It took just six days after the window closed for the nightmare to happen!
So what else could possibly go wrong this month? Well the eight games after the West Brom match would all be against teams currently in the top ten, in fact seven of them against the top seven of them. Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is the nightmare game coming up at the end of the month but on Wednesday night this week we played Manchester United at Old Trafford. Now in a way we played very well and deserved far more but we still lost 3-1! To make matters worse most of the clubs around us picked up points and Burnley slumped back into the relegation zone and found they were now second from bottom. Only Leicester are in a worse position at the moment propping up the league still four points adrift of the Clarets but that could soon change with such a shocking sequence of games coming up for Burnley.
On Wednesday night, Smalling scored a brace for United opening the scoring for the hosts as early as the sixth minute. Burnley rallied though and found the equaliser when Danny Ings found the back of the net from a Trippier cross in the 12th minute. In first half added time though, the Clarets suffered a body blow when United regained the lead following a header by Smalling to notch up his brace. The Clarets pushed for an equaliser again and pressed hard in the second half but it was game over when a lacklustre United made it 3-1 in the 82nd minute following a van Persie penalty. The final whistle left United manager, Louis van Gaal relieved saying Burnley were the better side! Well that was true but we still failed to pick up any points and now we look in a right pickle. We need some miraculous results now over the next seven games against top class Premier League opposition, otherwise it looks like season over! If we do go down there will be one main reason; the inability of the Board to get its act together and supplement the squad when it had the chance. They will have singularly failed to back the manager through their ineptitude and should hang their head in shame!
With the disastrous news that Marney would be out for the rest of the season, Sean Dyche had no option to change his starting eleven for the first time in eleven top flight games. It is not exactly difficult to guess what the one option left for the gaffer to do would be in light of no more recognised centre midfielders in the squad except youngsters such as Steven Hewitt. Clearly Hewitt is not ready for the first team at this level yet so it was the usual change losing Arfield on the wing so he could play in the centre whilst bringing in Kightly as a replacement winger. The eighteen then was as follows:
Heaton, Trippier, Shackell , Keane, Mee, Kightly, Arfield, Jones, Boyd, Ings, Barnes
Subs: Gilks, Reid, Duff, Lafferty, Wallace, Jutkiewicz, Vokes
Full Match Report
Our Friend, Kevin got this game underway with Burnley once more sporting their new all silver third-strip! It was the Clarets too that created the first goal-scoring opportunity after just three minutes of play. Michael Keane trying to impress his former paymasters left defender Phil Jones for dead as the ball came over from a Trippier corner. His header though was not on target. At the other end Heaton then did well to save after pushing the ball away following a dangerous looking attempt from Paddy McNair outside the box. United though then scored from the resulting corner. A header from van Persie at the near post found Falcao who knocked the ball back across the face of the goal. Smalling had just come onto the pitch after replacing the injured Jones but with his first touch he rose the highest to head the ball home into the far corner of the net and put United 1-0 up. The Clarets though not for the first time this season were about to show their resilience coming back strongly whilst seeking that equaliser with great spirit and character. It was United keeper de Gea after nine minutes that kept the Clarets at bay. Ings quickly turning on the ball found Kightly down the left flank. It was a tight angle but the former Wolves and Stoke winger tried his luck only to see the ball saved well by the keeper. Burnley kept pressing though in impressive style and three minutes later they got a richly deserved equaliser. Trippier latched onto the ball and flew down the right wing before thumping over a wonderful trademark cross to find Ings who flying through the air at full stretch headed home from close range. Ings had now scored nine goals this season and this was his fifth in six games. Burnley were now in rampant form and twice they nearly took the lead. From a corner, Ings saw his side-footed shot blocked and just two minutes later it was Trippier again who found Ings this time a with a perfect superb pass. Ings pulled the ball back to find Barnes who then unleashed a first time effort that flew inches wide of the post. The Clarets were taking the game to the hosts and causing United`s defence all sorts of anguish especially with Trippier punishing them down the wing and getting in a number of telling crosses. Eight minutes before half-time Ings and Trippier once more combined well before the ball was crossed over into the box to find Barnes. His header though frustratingly flew just over the crossbar at the near post. Burnley`s luck though then run out when totally against the run of play they were cruelly 2-1 down three minutes into first-half added time. It was a clever short-corner between Rooney and Di María that caused the damage, Smalling getting up the highest yet again to head the ball home and give the hosts an undeserved 2-1 lead at half time
United had already been forced to make two substitutions in the first half due to injuries to Jones and Blind so it was no surprise they kept a third substitution in reserve. Sean Dyche also decided not to make any substitutions for the start of the second half. If United were hoping Burnley would now succumb to the pressure they would be very much mistaken with the Clarets if anything looking more determined to get something from this game! Once again de Gea came to United`s rescue after Ings just two minutes into the second half was denied an equaliser from point blank range following some nice approach work involving Trippier and Boyd. The game though now seemed to change with United coming more into the game and looking more threatening. Heaton comfortably saved from Adnan Januzaj on 56 minutes. United were now more of a threat and looked more dangerous especially when van Gaal decided to provide more width by moving Januzaj and Di María onto the wings. The hosts were now enjoying a prolonged period of possession. United were also defending much deeper limiting the chances for the visitors. Burnley though were still showing spirit and doggedly sought the equaliser for the second time in the game. It looked like we could still get something from this game especially when Kightly saw his powerful shot deflected away for a corner but in the end it wasn`t to be. With eight minutes remaining following a counter-attack, Di María charged into the box before being brought down by Arfield. The referee decided it was a foul and awarded a penalty. The spot kick was calmly taken by van Persie to make the final score 3-1 to the hosts. At least it wasn`t 4-1 after Shackell cleared the ball off the goal line to deny Januzaj late on. It was an encouraging performance by the Clarets in the end but still one that was a huge disappointment following the failure to get any points. Things are looking bleak for the Clarets with just one win now in ten games and league leaders Chelsea coming up next at Stamford Bridge!
Manchester United: de Gea; McNair, Jones (Smalling 5), Evans, Rojo; Blind (Herrera 39); Rooney, Di María; Januzaj; Falcao (Wilson 73), van Persie
Subs Not Used: Valdés, Valencia, Mata, Fellaini
Goals: Smalling 6, 45 van Persie 82 (pen)
Booked: Yellow Cards for Rooney (58), Falcao (68), Wilson (84) and Ángel Di María (85)
Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee; Boyd, Arfield, Jones, Kightly (Vokes 86); Ings, Barnes (Jutkiewicz 90+2)
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Duff, Lafferty, Reid, Wallace
Goals: Ings 12
Booked: Yellow Cards for Kightly (25), Mee (53) and Arfield (67)
Possession: 57% Manchester United, 43% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Danny Ings was outstanding up front and his goal was a bonus. If rumours are to believed his performance was so good that United may well have now entered the fray to sign him in the summer. Due to the fact also that the thoughts of playing for a bigger club in the summer does appear to be affecting his play for the Clarets so far, I will give him also our 'Star Player` award.
"The manner, energy and organisation... it was all on show tonight. But we have to turn performances into wins.
'I thought Danny Ings was terrific. But I could say that about the whole team.'