Rooney back in the goals as United sharpen up ahead of City showdown

Manchester United skipper scores second as Burnley’s struggles continue

Burnley’s Matthew Lowton reacts after seeing Manchester United’s Anthony Martial  score his side’s first goal  during the Premier League match at Turf Moor. Photograph:   Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Burnley’s Matthew Lowton reacts after seeing Manchester United’s Anthony Martial score his side’s first goal during the Premier League match at Turf Moor. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

 

Burnley 0 Manchester United 2

Manchester United enter Thursday’s 174th derby with Manchester City knowing victory at the Etihad Stadium will leapfrog them over Pep Guardiola’s side into fourth place following this convincing win.

Before the recalled Wayne Rooney’s 251st goal for the club, Anthony Martial became the first United man to score at Turf Moor in the league since Lou Macari in 1976. In doing so he cost another £8.5 million (€10 million) payment to Monaco, a clause being triggered by Martial reaching 25th goals for the club. This may raise his fee to £44.5 million (€53 million) but the close to £40 million (€48 million) dividend yielded should Champions League qualification be achieved means United will hardly care.

Burnley, though, are enduring a concerning wobble as this reverse means only one win in 11 outings and Sean Dyche’s outfit are now five points above the drop zone ahead of travelling to Crystal Palace – who are a place below – on Saturday.

José Mourinho talked of having to protect players following Thursday’s 120 minutes against Anderlecht and the Portuguese made eight changes. Only Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly and Jesse Lingard were retained, with Rooney the notable inclusion. This was only a second league start since December 17th for the captain, who had clocked up only 86 minutes in total since February 1st.

Dyche’s XI showed only Andre Gray in for the injured Sam Vokes in the manager’s belt-and-braces 4-4-2. United lined up as a 4-3-3 that put Martial as the central striker with Rooney and Lingard left and right of him.

The first half’s finest move resulted in the opener. This was a one-two fashioned over 70 yards as Martial collected, ran forward, and passed right to Ander Herrera. The midfielder returned the ball to the Frenchman, who continued his run and he nosed it coolly beyond Tom Heaton for a fourth league finish.

This was 21 minutes in. As the match passed the half-hour Robbie Brady spun in a dangerous ball from the right and later the same player swung in free-kick from the left which caused Daley Blind to watch Ben Mee carefully while shepherding the ball out.

As the break neared, disaster struck at the other end for Burnley. Paul Pogba held Joey Barton off and found Martial. His effort was only half-blocked and Rooney doubled the lead.

Gray went close with a shot but at the break United’s cutting edge gave them a deserved lead.

This was now about whether Burnley could grab a goal and affect United’s rhythm. Their problem continued to be final-third execution, with Brady the next culprit as he passed aimlessly during the second half’s opening exchanges.

Later, Pogba showed the winger how by banging a 25-yard shot at Heaton, which had the goalkeeper sprawling left to prevent a third goal for the visitors. United coasted home after Michael Keane missed a late chance.

Burnley have collected an admirable 32 points at this venue, the division’s sixth best home haul. They have beaten Liverpool and drawn with Chelsea, yet United still handed them only a third loss before their own crowd. It is another indicator of what Mourinho is building as his team made it 23 Premier League games unbeaten.

Now comes the trip to east Manchester for a crucial showdown with Guardiola’s men.

(Guardian service)

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