Blog

Ralf Rangnick's pick-n-mix approach could solve Manchester United's midfield problem for the time being

Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic played a key role in the dismantling of Burnley at Old Trafford on Thursday night (Author: Gardener)

Ralf Rangnick'sCentral midfield. Call it what you will, it's the Manchester United issue - the area of ​​the pitch where there seem to be many possible solutions but no obvious answer. Although Ralf Rangnick had several options on the eve of the window opening in January, it is widely believed that he urgently needs reinforcements. After all, the center of midfield is an extremely important part of Rangnick's proven 4-2-2-2 system. It offers the protection that enables a four-man attack with the assistance of adventurous full-backs when his teams have the ball and intense press and counter-press when they don't. If Rangnick's transition is to be successful, the right midfield partnership is a must. Closest they are to "McFred" - Fred and Scott McTominay - a pairing that generally offers greater solidity than their alternatives, but which has still been implicated in many poor United performances. One such feat came at St James' Park earlier this week when United's inability to keep the ball in midfield exposed them to wave after wave of Newcastle counter-attacks. "The manager said we have the record for the most lost ball [loss of possession due to mistakes] in the league," said McTominay. In response, Rangnick changed his midfield line-up for Burnley's visit to Old Trafford. Fred was traded for Nemanja Matic while McTominay was retained despite a late fitness test for an ankle injury sustained at the Newcastle draw. What followed was anything but a perfect performance, but by far the best performance of Rangnick's interim and also his most comfortable victory. McTominay was also in the spotlight, not only because his skillfully hit shot from the edge of the penalty area opened the goal after eight minutes. One half of the much-maligned McFred partnership seemed more than usual a box-to-box player, taking responsibility and letting things happen in the middle of the park as if liberated by the more traditional game with a teammate intended as a holding player. But it's easy to forget that he arrived in the Premier League five years ago as a midfielder who won the title, and while that title came alongside a one-man midfield that covered many of Matic's weaknesses in N'Golo Kane there is strengths too. Matic's passing clearance and foresight are an underestimated aspect of his all-round game. Last season only Bruno Fernandes played more progressive passes per 90 than Matic of these United players to enjoy more than 10 minutes of play. Judging from Rangnick's post-game comments, it sounds like he realized this after a few weeks on the job. "We decided to play with the two sixes the way they did and have Nemanja as a kind of quarterback player on the team who can calm the game and play the passes from that position," he said . Against a Burnley side that was struggling to disrupt United's build-up and were fairly happy to be tight and in shape once the ball was in midfield, Matic had time to obey Rangnick's command and McTominay did then released. Against opponents who take a slightly different approach and press more actively in the middle of the field, this partnership could easily run into difficulties. Remember the only other game this season where McTominay and Matic started as a couple without Fred? Full points if you say the 4-1 loss to Watford, the game Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost his job in. The truth is that United's midfield puzzle probably cannot be solved without spending, even if it always seems like the answer at Old Trafford. Amadou Haidara and Diadie Samassekou are two former Rangnick club players whose names are making the rounds. But if nothing works by the end of the month, United's interim manager has to get creative. All of his midfield options have their strengths, they all have their weaknesses. Sometimes it's the right notes, sometimes the wrong one. If Rangnick can start playing them in the correct order and tailoring them to the opponent, as he did with McTominay and Matic for that comfortable win over Burnley, then that pick-n-mix approach could help United muddle through .

Read

"Almost nine years of uncertainty"

As Manchester United climbs back into the top 6 in the Premier League, BBC Sport's Simon Stone looks to coach Ralf Rangnick's upcoming work. (Author: Gardener)

Manchester UnitedAs the teams emerged from the tunnel ahead of Manchester United's 3-1 Premier League win over Burnley at Old Trafford, a giant banner was hoisted over Stretford End wishing Sir Alex Ferguson a happy 80th birthday. Since then, United have been desperate to restore England's number one status which they have for so long assumed with authority from Ferguson's reign. You were at the top of the Premier League on New Year's Day. The year in between wasn't good for United. Their title challenge faded before January was over, they lost another semi-final against Manchester City and the Europa League final against Villarreal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost his job after getting completely lost during a disastrous fall. Ralf Rangnick's stuttering start at Old Trafford brought it back to life at least so quickly that United was able to finish the year in the top six as it has done every year since 1989. But obviously the German still has a lot of work to do. Speaking to the media for the first time after arriving at Old Trafford in early December, Rangnick noted that "the squad is definitely not too small". On the back of United's game schedule, the names of 32 players are listed, all of whom could legitimately claim a spot on the first-team squad. The future of these younger players is already partly shaped. In contrast, it is planned that Anthony Elanga will stay and try to build on the three senior national team games he has already played this season. France striker Anthony Martial has told Rangnick he wants to leave. Sevilla are interested but have already turned down a loan application as United are demanding all Martial salaries are covered and their club receive a loan fee as well. With Lingard resistant to a January move, the likelihood of him leaving Old Trafford as a free agent is growing. Dean Henderson wants to play for the first team in the second half of the season but Rangnick wants to keep him. Juan Mata could leave next month as he has not started a game in the Premier League since signing a one-year extension last summer and then there is Paul Pogba, whose contract with United also expires this summer, in the uncomfortable Position of either offering improved terms to a player who hardly deserves it or risking losing him a second time for free. Even among the players whose immediate future was firmly set at Old Trafford there were problems to be solved. Former United captain Gary Neville referred to some of the club's players as "whinge bags" during the recent 1-1 draw with Newcastle, saying the waving of arms from Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes in particular was a depressing sight. After the game, Rangnick said he wasn't as interested in it as his team's underperformance. “In team sport, it's always important to be convinced of what you're doing,” he said. "It was a difficult game for us in Newcastle." Are we going to hit back and show them that we are a team that believes in ourselves? Or do we shake our heads and wave our arms, help the other team and harm our own? It was clear to me that it was important that we work and behave as a team and not show such side effects on the pitch. United have been around the longest since the middle of last season. Fourth in the table Arsenal is in sight, even if leaders Manchester City are almost as far ahead of Rangnick's team in terms of points as United proved ahead of bottom Norwich beyond Solskjaer, but if Rangnick can find a solid central defense - which would make the continued fitness of Raphael Varane easier - United could have a base to unleash their undisputed offensive talents. It has been like this for almost nine years. As Ferguson turns 80 on New Year's Eve, Vice Chairman Ed Woodward prepares to quit his role. In terms of silverware, Woodward's tenure was not positive. United fans can only hope Woo dwards successor is much better lucky. * Our coverage of Manchester United is bigger and better than ever - everything you need to know here to make sure you don't miss a moment * Everything United - go straight to the best content

Read

Ralf Rangnick praised the reaction of the Manchester United players in defeating Burnley

The Red Devils came under fire after the Newcastle draw, but recovered and won 3-1 at Old Trafford. (Author: Gardener)

BurnleyRalf Rangnick was delighted with the response and improved body language of the Manchester United players as they beat Burnley days after the humble Newcastle draw. The summer additions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane raised expectations at Old Trafford, but this season has been a wet squib that resulted in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's departure last month. Under interim successor Rangnick, progress was slow, not least thanks to the effects of Covid-19, and United looked way behind the pace in Monday's 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Newcastle. Former Red Devils captain Gary Neville said the players are in the St. "In team sports, it's always important to be confident in what you're doing," said Rangnick. “It was a difficult game for us in Newcastle. The reaction to what is happening on the pitch is therefore the question: How do we react to it? Are we showing them that we are still a team that believes in us? "That's why it was clear for me to tell them that it is important that we work as a team and that we behave and work and that we don't show such side effects on the pitch." United moved up to sixth place by winning the final Premier League game of 2021, with Scott McTominay starring the show at Old Trafford. The Scottish midfielder scored a nice opening goal from the edge of the box and saw a shot on the post after Sancho's Ben Mee hit, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to add a third shot. "We didn't decide until two o'clock this afternoon that he would play," said Rangnick of Man of the Match McTominay. “He had some problems with the bruised ankle he suffered in Newcastle so it was good to have him available and on the team. At halftime, our team doctor told me that he would have problems in the second half. It was very important to have him on the team and in the end he could play the whole 92 or 93 minutes. “He was a very important player for us today. We played a 4-4-2 defensively and a 4-2-4 offensively and I thought it was important that he and Nemanja (Matic) play side by side as the two sixes. ”Burnley had a number of important failures due to this of injuries and Covid-19, but Sean Dyche didn't use this as an excuse after a game in which Aaron Lennon scored a consolation. "Everyone has a challenge right now," the Clarets boss said after a game that Nick Pope, Jay Rodriguez, Josh Brownhill and Kevin Long missed after testing positive for Covid-19. Obviously, if they do that, it will help us to maybe get Maxwel (Cornet) back. “Barnsey [Ashley Barnes] and Connor Roberts are too far away, but what's going on right now is a challenge. I thought the performance was okay, especially some of the opportunities we created. “It's not easy to come here and get chances, it's not easy to come here and hold the ball like we did sometimes, so a lot of it was fine. We have to keep working and focus on the details at both ends of the pitch. "

Read

Premier League Live Stream, TV Channel, Time, Online Watch, News, Odds

After the draw with Newcastle, Manchester United now host Burnley (Author: Gardener)

TimeFor Ralf Rangnick at Manchester United, the new coaching change is over, the usual 1-0 league wins are now a 1-1 draw. With Maxwel Cornet being a touch-and-go too, Sean Dyche might have to make some tough decisions. Manchester United: The biggest question for Manchester United is what the line-up will be like without Fernandes and Edinson Cavani pushing for inclusion after his late equalizer against Newcastle United. Most likely, Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek will fill in for Fernandes and Mason Greenwood, but the question of Marcus Rashford's performance also remains. Rashford hasn't looked like himself since returning from injury and doesn't get much into the attacking third. In reality, United strikers other than Cristiano Ronaldo have not been good enough this season, but with Cavani being the only one who has not reached 500 minutes, he gets a pass. Burnley: If Maxwel can't play Cornet, the Clarets are against it. With Cornet on the pitch, they scored eleven goals and allowed eight. This is one of the most powerful talismans in the league as the other strikers available to Sean Dyche are not good enough. Chris Wood had his spells but he's not getting the job done this season and playing Cornet at least gives the defense something to think about to ease the pressure from the defense. They should have scored more goals without Cornet as the team scored nine expected goals without him, but if the strikers aren't good enough to work with Dwight McNeil, the quality of the chances achieved doesn't matter. I don't think Cornet is healthy enough to make the difference, so in this case United is going to overrun Burnley. Selection: Manchester United 2, Burnley 0

Read

Watch: Manchester United 3-1 Burnley Match Highlights

Manchester United beat Burnley 3-1 at home in the Premier League on Thursday and you can see the match highlights here. (Author: Gardener)

Manchester UnitedManchester United beat Burnley 3-1 at home in the Premier League on Thursday and you can see the match highlights here. All goals at Old Trafford fell in the first half when Ralf Rangnick's team moved up to 6th place in the table. Aaron Lennon provided good consolation for Burnley, who continues to be in the bottom three.

Read

Man Utd in the top 6 after beating Burnley

Manchester United climb into the Premier League top 6 after an entertaining win over Burnley at Old Trafford. (Author: Gardener)

BurnleyManchester United scored three first-half goals for the first time since January in the Premier League when they brushed Burnley aside at Old Trafford and moved back into the top six. Jadon Sancho's deflected shot doubled the hosts' lead before Cristiano Ronaldo - who missed a glorious chance after the game went goalless - tapped into an empty net after McTominay's shot from Burnley keeper Wayne hit a post was Hennessey. Aaron Lennon used a weak first touch from Eric Bailly to back down for the guests with a clinical finish in the bottom corner. In their first game since December 12, Burnley lacked the stamina or ruse to continue troubling United and stay in the top three. The win extends United's unbeaten streak to eight games since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sent off, and although they are only two points closer to the top of the table than bottom, they still have a long way to go if they want to start, a significant one Legacy for the accomplishments of Sir Alex Ferguson, who is 80th birthday on New Year's Eve. Two moments with small details that were of great importance for the hosts were in an opening phase that represented the best 45 minutes of Ralf Rangnick's short time. Greenwood obeyed, becoming more effective and making room for others at the same time. The Englishman was a shadow of the player who impressed so much at Borussia Dortmund, but the way he challenged the ball from Luke Shaw before turning into the far corner would have been his first goal at Old Trafford if it hadn't Skipper Ben Mee was a welcome vote of confidence. Although Rangnick made six changes to his starting XI, the combination of injuries and positive coronavirus testing that stole seven first-team players from Burnley boss Sean Dyche was more of a blow. The absence of England goalkeeper Nick Pope was related to Covid and meant only a second appearance in the Premier League for former Crystal Palace keeper Hennessey since the lockdown. The Welsh international made some eye catching saves, one of which prevented McTominay from completing a full length move in the second half. Given the opposition and the length of time his team have been without a game, Dyche may not be too discouraged by the result. Sunday's trip to Leeds with the fellow campaigners is far more significant in the totality of things. Manchester United's next game is on Monday 3rd January (5.30pm GMT) against Wolves at Old Trafford. Burnley is next up against Leeds on Elland Road on Sunday January 2nd (2pm). * Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever - everything you need to know is here to make sure you don't miss a moment

Read

Man United's win over Burnley is cause for optimism in 2022

Manchester United were back to their best in Thursday's Burnley win and if those efforts are repeatable then 2022 could be an excellent year. (Author: Gardener)

BurnleyCraig Burley explains what went right and wrong in Manchester United's 3-1 win over Burnley. Craig Burley explains what went right and wrong in Manchester United's 3-1 win over Burnley. MANCHESTER, England - "It's more like that," said the host as he opened MUTV's mid-term coverage of Burnley's visit to Old Trafford on Thursday, and the relief could almost be heard on TVs scattered around the stadium. The past 12 months have been a tough sell for Manchester United's in-house channel. After all, it's difficult to assess positively a defeat in a European final, a total humiliation at home to Liverpool and a form so devastating that club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked. Fortunately for the operators of the television channel United - obliged to find the best in everything in rain or shine - 2021 ended with an easy night. Ralf Rangnick's team scored for the first time this season within the first 15 minutes of a league game in the Premier League, scored three goals in the first half of a league game for the first time since February and finally won 3-1. "Now eight games in a row without defeat, it's about taking the next steps," said Rangnick afterwards. "As expected, it was a very tough, physical game against a team that played very physical. The overall team performance was much better." When United escaped in a draw with Newcastle United four days earlier, it was easy to forget that these are still some of the best players in the world. The truth is, they didn't play like that for much of 2021, and success in 2022 will depend on whether the Burnley appearances - collectively and individually - are a glimmer of hope that will be quickly erased, or a token of that Future . Luke Shaw, poor since helping England to the Euro 2020 final that summer, stormed the left again. Shaw and Sancho combined for United's second goal - which was put down as a Ben Mee own goal - after Scott McTominay scored an eight-minute finish from the edge of the box. With the ball safely in the net, McTominay sprinted towards the corner flag and shouted "Come on" in a loud voice. It wasn't just the MUTV anchor that felt relieved. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the third, 14th goal since returning to the club after McTominay's shot ricocheted off the post. Outstanding against Burnley, McTominay has taken more than his fair share of criticism this year, but his commitment and attitude are not in question. The first half of 2022 will undoubtedly focus on finding the next manager, but if this group is to be successful they need to learn that you can't always hide behind the man in the hot seat. Solskjaer stayed behind and it was for the sake of everyone he left when he did, but neither did his players help him. It wasn't his fault, for example, that Harry Maguire was unnecessarily dismissed during that disastrous defeat at Watford, which was enough for the Glazers to finally lose patience. Rangnick, Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag or whoever is next can change training or organize their teams differently, but the managers can only do limited things. After all, the players have to take responsibility for what happens on the pitch. Manchester City and Liverpool win not only because of Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp. It can't just be about being happy with the status of playing at United, it can be about proving that you belong every day. In that regard, at least, McTominay is an example for others to learn from, and Rangnick is already trying to address that. "Now is the time to really step up and get much, much better," said McTominay. "The coach is so demanding and we play for Man United, that's our job. It's easy to play on your forefoot with the right energy and intensity when you have a Burnley team that has been gutted by COVID-19 and without hitting them away. " a win since October, then MUTV would really have something to complain about.

Read

Scott McTominay plays Ralf Rangnicks Red Devils, who will end in style in 2021

McTominay scored one goal and another in Manchester United's 3-1 win (Author: Gardener)

Scott McTominayManchester United ended the 2021 Premier League games in impressive fashion as Scott McTominay led Ralf Rangnick's side to a 3-1 home win over Burnley. He scored one goal, managed another and dominated midfield. McTominay's dynamic was the dividing line in a fight that was more even than the outcome suggests. While there were many in red who seemed to have their teething troubles with Rangnicks 4-4-2, McTominay put everything together perfectly and led the Red Devils to a first win in 19 COVID-troubled days. Still, looking ahead to 2022, United is at least in the mix to meet their minimal expectations. four points behind Arsenal in fourth place with one game in hand and still with that tendency to flattering results. It was, however, an appropriate reflection on McTominay's Excellency. While Nemanja Matic shielded the defense, the Scottish international could rage up and down in the hunt for the ball. If it was his performance in front of goal that caught the eye, the little things were no less decisive for the hosts' success. He would threaten Chris Wood from the air to prevent set pieces and shots on goal and cut an important outball for Burnley. No player beat their four-ball recovery in the first half. Often a gamer defined by his pace of work or physicality, he displayed no small technical excellence. When Cristiano Ronaldo touched the penalty area violently, he seized the moment; a hard-hitting low drive that curls into Wayne Hennessey's lower corner. It was a strange "assist" from Ronaldo, a rare heavy touch that instead touched down perfectly for his teammate. McTominay returned the favor more than once. First he raced through midfield and held out until the right moment to push a through pass into the feet of his No. 7. Not for the first time on Thursday, he struck through the air in frustration as the ball caught under his feet before he could fire a convincing shot. McTominay would then have to make it easier for him. He did, another well-placed shot from a distance that was too much for Hennessey, who could only tip it on the post. Of course, Ronaldo was there for the rebound, a casual blow from the outside of his right shoe brought the tall man the 47th goal of the calendar year. Even if he's not overwhelmed, Ronaldo seems to be figuring out a way to score a goal. At this point United were already two-way ahead, Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho combined a quick dart on his right foot and a shot at the far post. Ben Mee put out a desperate shoe that Premier League officials saw as the crucial touch. One would guess that both parties would be rather happy if Sancho, an impressive, if infrequent, participant in the competition, received that goal. But they'd been far too good to score three goals in the first place, and their wingers presented Harry Maguire and his companions with a lot of trouble. Although it was Eric Bailly who made the initial mistake that allowed Aaron Lennon to capture the ball, his senior central defense partner only made things worse by pulling back further and further, leaving an angle open to head towards the far post meeting. Lennon found the point on point, not the strongest punch, but one that rolled just far enough out of David de Gea's reach. After fighting his way back into the fight, Burnley barely came out of the traps in the second half. Mee threw a header off the back post shortly after Raphael Varane replaced the injured Eric Bailly, who hopes he'll still be able to take part in the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast. Burnley's bombing of the United Box never quite got through; Matej Vydra could have done more with a late cross from Matt Lowton, Erik Pieters fired a shot on his weaker right foot and James Tarkowski overtook Maguire and headed straight at De Gea after time ran out.

Read

"Almost nine years of uncertainty"

As Manchester United climbs back into the top 6 in the Premier League, BBC Sport's Simon Stone looks to coach Ralf Rangnick's upcoming work. (Author: Gardener)

Manchester UnitedAs the teams emerged from the tunnel ahead of Manchester United's 3-1 Premier League win over Burnley at Old Trafford, a giant banner was hoisted over Stretford End wishing Sir Alex Ferguson a happy 80th birthday. Since then, United have been desperate to restore England's number one status which they have for so long assumed with authority from Ferguson's reign. You were at the top of the Premier League on New Year's Day. The year in between wasn't good for United. Their title challenge faded before January was over, they lost another semi-final against Manchester City and the Europa League final against Villarreal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost his job after getting completely lost during a disastrous fall. Ralf Rangnick's stuttering start at Old Trafford brought it back to life at least so quickly that United was able to finish the year in the top six as it has done every year since 1989. But obviously the German still has a lot of work to do. Speaking to the media for the first time after arriving at Old Trafford in early December, Rangnick noted that "the squad is definitely not too small". On the back of United's game schedule, the names of 32 players are listed, all of whom could legitimately claim a spot on the first-team squad. The future of these younger players is already partly shaped. In contrast, it is planned that Anthony Elanga will stay and try to build on the three senior national team games he has already played this season. France striker Anthony Martial has told Rangnick he wants to leave. Sevilla are interested but have already turned down a loan application as United are demanding all Martial salaries are covered and their club receive a loan fee as well. With Lingard resistant to a January move, the likelihood of him leaving Old Trafford as a free agent is growing. Dean Henderson wants to play for the first team in the second half of the season but Rangnick wants to keep him. Juan Mata could leave next month as he has not started a game in the Premier League since signing a one-year extension last summer and then there is Paul Pogba, whose contract with United also expires this summer, in the uncomfortable Position of either offering improved terms to a player who hardly deserves it or risking losing him a second time for free. Even among the players whose immediate future was firmly set at Old Trafford there were problems to be solved. Former United captain Gary Neville referred to some of the club's players as "whinge bags" during the recent 1-1 draw with Newcastle, saying the waving of arms from Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes in particular was a depressing sight. After the game, Rangnick said he wasn't as interested in it as his team's underperformance. “In team sport, it's always important to be convinced of what you're doing,” he said. "It was a difficult game for us in Newcastle." Are we going to hit back and show them that we are a team that believes in ourselves? Or do we shake our heads and wave our arms, help the other team and harm our own? It was clear to me that it was important that we work and behave as a team and not show such side effects on the pitch. United have been around the longest since the middle of last season. Fourth in the table Arsenal is in sight, even if leaders Manchester City are almost as far ahead of Rangnick's team in terms of points as United proved ahead of bottom Norwich beyond Solskjaer, but if Rangnick can find a solid central defense - which would make the continued fitness of Raphael Varane easier - United could have a base to unleash their undisputed offensive talents. It has been like this for almost nine years. As Ferguson turns 80 on New Year's Eve, Vice Chairman Ed Woodward prepares to quit his role. In terms of silverware, Woodward's tenure was not positive. United fans can only hope Woo dwards successor is much better lucky. * Our coverage of Manchester United is bigger and better than ever - everything you need to know here to make sure you don't miss a moment * Everything United - go straight to the best content

Read

Scott McTominay plays Ralf Rangnicks Red Devils, who will end in style in 2021

McTominay scored one goal and another in Manchester United's 3-1 win (Author: Gardener)

Scott McTominayManchester United ended the 2021 Premier League games in impressive fashion as Scott McTominay led Ralf Rangnick's side to a 3-1 home win over Burnley. He scored one goal, managed another and dominated midfield. McTominay's dynamic was the dividing line in a fight that was more even than the outcome suggests. While there were many in red who seemed to have their teething troubles with Rangnicks 4-4-2, McTominay put everything together perfectly and led the Red Devils to a first win in 19 COVID-troubled days. Still, looking ahead to 2022, United is at least in the mix to meet their minimal expectations. four points behind Arsenal in fourth place with one game in hand and still with that tendency to flattering results. It was, however, an appropriate reflection on McTominay's Excellency. While Nemanja Matic shielded the defense, the Scottish international could rage up and down in the hunt for the ball. If it was his performance in front of goal that caught the eye, the little things were no less decisive for the hosts' success. He would threaten Chris Wood from the air to prevent set pieces and shots on goal and cut an important outball for Burnley. No player beat their four-ball recovery in the first half. Often a gamer defined by his pace of work or physicality, he displayed no small technical excellence. When Cristiano Ronaldo touched the penalty area violently, he seized the moment; a hard-hitting low drive that curls into Wayne Hennessey's lower corner. It was a strange "assist" from Ronaldo, a rare heavy touch that instead touched down perfectly for his teammate. McTominay returned the favor more than once. First he raced through midfield and held out until the right moment to push a through pass into the feet of his No. 7. Not for the first time on Thursday, he struck through the air in frustration as the ball caught under his feet before he could fire a convincing shot. McTominay would then have to make it easier for him. He did, another well-placed shot from a distance that was too much for Hennessey, who could only tip it on the post. Of course, Ronaldo was there for the rebound, a casual blow from the outside of his right shoe brought the tall man the 47th goal of the calendar year. Even if he's not overwhelmed, Ronaldo seems to be figuring out a way to score a goal. At this point United were already two-way ahead, Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho combined a quick dart on his right foot and a shot at the far post. Ben Mee put out a desperate shoe that Premier League officials saw as the crucial touch. One would guess that both parties would be rather happy if Sancho, an impressive, if infrequent, participant in the competition, received that goal. But they'd been far too good to score three goals in the first place, and their wingers presented Harry Maguire and his companions with a lot of trouble. Although it was Eric Bailly who made the initial mistake that allowed Aaron Lennon to capture the ball, his senior central defense partner only made things worse by pulling back further and further, leaving an angle open to head towards the far post meeting. Lennon found the point on point, not the strongest punch, but one that rolled just far enough out of David de Gea's reach. After fighting his way back into the fight, Burnley barely came out of the traps in the second half. Mee threw a header off the back post shortly after Raphael Varane replaced the injured Eric Bailly, who hopes he'll still be able to take part in the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast. Burnley's bombing of the United Box never quite got through; Matej Vydra could have done more with a late cross from Matt Lowton, Erik Pieters fired a shot on his weaker right foot and James Tarkowski overtook Maguire and headed straight at De Gea after time ran out.

Read