Manchester United 2 Burnley 2
This is becoming a dire festive period for José Mourinho. The 2-2 draw with Burnley followed Saturday’s identical result at Leicester City so Manchester United will trail Manchester City by 15 points should Pep Guardiola’s men beat Newcastle United on Wednesday evening.
If it is not already, the deficit to United’s great rivals will soon be embarrassing. And given Mourinho’s personal history with Guardiola these are uncomfortable times for the Portuguese and the delirious visiting support compared him unflatteringly with the Catalan.
As United spent virtually all of the second period camped in Burnley’s half, Mourinho cannot fault the effort. The problem is more fundamental. A lack of quality where it counts most: in front of goal.
After the "childish decisions" bewailed by Mourinho for allowing Leicester to sneak a late equaliser he made four changes. Victor Lindelof and Jesse Lingard dropped to the bench and Anthony Martial and the injured Chris Smalling were not in the 18. Drafted in were Marcus Rashford, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the last of these making a first Premier League start this year.
Sean Dyche's only change from the 3-0 home defeat by Tottenham was Ashley Barnes for Chris Wood, who has a knee problem. His side started in the best possible fashion. Within moments of kick-off Jeff Hendrick forced Rojo into conceding a free-kick down the left. Johann Berg Gudmundsson swung this in and a poor header from Romelu Lukaku allowed Barnes to smash home.
After Mourinho's latest moan about the schedule in the programme his mood will have darkened further. United's profligacy cost them at Leicester and they were culpable again when next attacking. Ibrahimovic's cross fell precisely for Juan Mata to head but he connected only lightly as Nick Pope's goal gaped.
Burnley were proving far sharper. When the ball was moved to Gudmundsson down his right corridor he was allowed copious time. In came a ball that fell straight on Scott Arfield’s boot and though he beat David de Gea the bar saved United.
To the home team's credit they did try to force an equaliser. Shaw warmed Pope's fingers with a 25-yard effort and this followed an Ashley Young ball that came close to pinging in off Lukaku's forehead.
A further threat came when Shaw, Rashford, Ibrahimovic and Mata moved the ball swiftly into the area and Burnley conceded a corner. A second followed quickly but Shaw’s delivery was cleared with ease. Back came the ball via a barracking Young run along the right. He fed Lukaku and when the No 9 beat two defenders and stood the cross up Ibrahimovic’s attempted bicycle kick put off an in-rushing Rashford.
When Burnley next roved forward they showed United how to finish. Arfield was clattered by Young and the infringement was given, 25 yards out in a central position. Now came a peach from Steven Defour as he curled the ball beyond De Gea, into the top-right corner, and that was 2-0.
Ben Mee remained focused enough to prevent United pulling one back within moments. Rashford stole a half yard but his shot was cleared from the goalline by the visiting captain. As the half petered out a quiet Paul Pogba fired an attempt wide, epitomising United's efforts.
Mourinho made a double substitution for the second half, with Ibrahimovic and Rojo taken off for Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. As a result Nemanja Matic dropped into Rojo’s centre-back berth, with Lingard and Mkhitaryan operating in midfield in a 4-1-4-1. There was a near-instant dividend. Young fired a low ball in from the right and Lingard made contact but the effort went on to the bar via a Pope hand.
Now, though, Old Trafford did roar as United scored. This was a near identical move. Young zipped in a cross and this time Lingard slid home a back-heel to send the faithful into rapture.
It quickened United as would be expected. They were still two goals away from claiming three points, though: a big task against this parsimonious Burnley rearguard.
From here, Mourinho’s men retained possession well , yet kept on faltering nearing Pope’s goal. A Rashford free-kick from the left that cleared everyone and went straight out was illustrative.
In the second of five minutes of injury time, Lingard scored his second to secure a draw but that was not what was required.
The United manager may argue that Burnley came to spoil – they ended with seven yellow cards, which means a Football Association charge – and United deserved more. But, really, the failure is an inability to finish their opposition off.
– Guardian service