Chris Smalling brace from the bench sees Manchester United past Burnley

Centre-back’s performance sums upthe team’s unconvincing form

Manchester United’s Chris Smalling scores his, and his team’s second goal during their 3-1 victory over Burnley. Photograph: AFP Photo/Oli Scarff

Manchester United’s Chris Smalling scores his, and his team’s second goal during their 3-1 victory over Burnley. Photograph: AFP Photo/Oli Scarff

 

Manchester United 3 Burnley 1

Chris Smalling should have been a candidate for man-of-the-match after the two first-half goals that propelled his side to victory, though the centre-half was so shaky in defence it would have been a travesty. That seems to sum up Manchester United at the moment, nothing is going completely right, though at least they are back above Arsenal after hanging on for a win against Burnley.

Louis van Gaal stuck to the same diamond that won a point at West Ham but moved Adnan Januzaj further forward to allow Angel Di Maria to operate on the left. Within minutes of kick-off the United manager was having to make another change, and his latest substitution worked out even better than the deployment of Marouane Fellaini as a target man at the Boleyn Ground.

Playing in a truly hideous away strip, Burnley won an early corner and Phil Jones injured himself in preventing Michael Keane scoring at the near post. Chris Smalling came on in Jones’s place and had been on the pitch a mere 22 seconds when he scored with his first touch, placing a header beyond Tom Heaton after Radamel Falcao had knocked a corner across goal.

Pegged back

Danny Ings

United’s first half proceeded to get worse, with Ings missing a close-range opportunity following a corner and Ashley Barnes sending a shot narrowly wide. It was easy to see why Van Gaal complains of United being too open with a back four, and though Daley Blind was doing his best to plug the alarming amount of space between Smalling and Jonny Evans, he had to leave the field following a collision with Scott Arfield after half an hour.

Poor ball retention

When Blind could not continue and Ander Herrera was sent on to deputise it at least gave supporters a rare sight of a player many feel might be the solution to this problem, though.

Ings continued to look the classiest player on the pitch, certainly the most confident. “We only cost three quid,” the Burnley fans were singing before Smalling scored again on the stroke of the interval to put United in front.

Smalling’s second successful header of the evening, followed a clever short corner between Rooney and Di Maria.

Burnley missed a great opportunity to equalise right at the start of the second half when Ings could only shoot straight at De Gea after Smalling made a mess of a George Boyd cross. Smalling and his side got better as the second half progressed, without seriously troubling Heaton until the late penalty that settled the contest. Herrera’s pass sent Di Maria into space, Scott Arfield mistimed his tackle and Van Persie scored from the spot to leave United comfortable winners.

Guardian Service

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea; McNair, Jones (Smalling 5), Evans, Rojo; Blind (Herrera 38); Rooney, Di Maria; Januzaj; Falcao (Wilson 7), Van Persie. Booked: Rooney, Falcao.

BURNLEY: Heaton; Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Kightly, Jones, Boyd; Barnes, Ings. Booked: Kightly, Mee, Arfield. Referee: Kevin Friend.

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