More misery for Manchester United as they’re held at Burnley

As against Middlesbrough, the plot was lost in the contest’s second 45 minutes

Burnley 1 Manchester United 1

Manchester United are currently in an unwanted surrender mode, this being a second, second-half abdication of responsibility in two matches.

It is, patently, not good enough and there is an oddity to elite players of the ilk of Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Raphaël Varane, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes being unable to kill off an opponent who are last in the standings and who trailed at half-time.

Yet, as against Middlesbrough, the plot was lost in the contest's second 45 minutes. Burnley ended with a precious point that was handed to them by weak defending for the Jay Rodriguez strike that cancelled out Pogba's opener, and by United's inability to fire thereafter.

Ralf Rangnick’s team may now have lost only once in nine league games but wins are the demand.

United were as bright at the start as they were against Middlesbrough on Friday. Jadon Sancho launched raids on the left and both Pogba and Fernandes scooped balls into Burnley's area from the same side.

Rain swept across the ground on a classic dank night in sight of the Lancashire moors but it did not dampen the visitor's spark, a Marcus Rashford attempt forcing Nick Pope to make the contest's opening save and hand United a corner.

United struck shortly after, only for the goal to be chalked off. Fernandes floated in a free-kick and up jumped Varane to head home. But no. To Rangnick's obvious chagrin Mike Dean was ordered to the monitor and ruled that an offside Maguire had impeded Rodriguez and the game remained scoreless.

Moments later Rangnick’s mood was dramatically altered after his team gave the best riposte. Fernandes, a firefly flitting around everywhere, appeared at halfway and volleyed a pass out to Rashford on the left. He fed an overlapping Shaw and the left-back’s cross was hammered home by Pogba. This was the France midfielder’s first goal of the season and Burnley were in pieces.

United beat Pope again soon – via Ben Mee – but Pogba was adjudged to have fouled Erik Pieters in the buildup so Burnley's captain and his side escaped.

To say Sean Dyche’s side were riding their luck was an understatement. This was underlined when Edinson Cavani failed to score with a point-blank header – his effort allowed Pope to save – that would have made it 2-0.

The pattern of United dominance was, once again, reminiscent of the weekend’s FA Cup tie but the problem then was a second-half implosion ended with Boro knocking them out. By the interval the visitors had taken 12 shots, their hosts zero. Burnley had illustrated why their last win in this competition was in late October, yet they badly required one this evening as victories in their games in hand would lift them from bottom to the safety of 17th.

Folding

For United, three points would take them to within six of Chelsea in third, the west London club having played two matches more at kick-off. Rangnick, who dropped Cristiano Ronaldo for a first league match under him, could be pleased with the mission so far but now came the second half and the test of not folding as they had last time out.

Rangnick would have been wise to remind his charges of this before they wandered out after the break. If he did, they had paid absolutely 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 slid in the equaliser.

Burnley had become rampant, Weghorst firing off a 25-yard laser that had De Gea skidding across the turf to his right to prevent a second within a minute. United were rattled, a second test of spirit coming just four days after their last capitulation.

If they failed to emerge with three points after being so utterly in control in the first half, an inquiry into why supposed top-level professionals seem to possess no in-game management would be required. Pogba, Sancho, 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 had changed ends.

As captain, Harry Maguire was anonymous 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 then the Portuguese missed chances, a mortifying ride home was to be endured at the final whistle. - Guardian

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