Romelu Lukaku scored a first half brace to inspire Manchester United to a comfortable 2-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday.
The visitors dominated the game pretty much from the get-go as Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard combined for a fluid front trio that should give Manchester United fans some cause for optimism. After coming close in the opening exchanges a few times, the lead was finally secured in the 27th minute.
Sanchez, allowed loads of free space on the left flank, picked out Lukaku inside the Burnley box, with the Belgium nodding past Joe Hart. Lukaku would then go on to double his and Manchester United’s tally for the evening in scrappy fashion after the ball had ricocheted a couple of times.
Manchester United continued dominating the proceedings in the second half as well, but could not add to their return due to their own wastefulness and Hart’s heroics. In fact, the match could have been put to bed in the 68th minute when Paul Pogba’s penalty was saved by the Burnley goalkeeper after Marus Rashford had been fouled by Aaron Lennon.
Full-time: Burnley 0 #MUFC 2.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 2, 2018
Rashford was in the thick of the action once again moments later, albeit for all the wrong reasons as a scuffle with Phil Bardsley led to his dismissal, and rightly so. However, Manchester United were barely troubled despite the numerical disadvantage as they coasted towards victory. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jose Mourinho’s men.
David De Gea: 7/10
A quiet evening for De Gea, who was a mere spectator for the most part. The Spaniard was improved in commanding his defenders inside the box, though, while his distribution was better as well. When he was finally forced into a save, the Manchester United no. 1 was at hand to deny Sam Vokes with a blinder. Up and running for the campaign.
Antonio Valencia: 6.5/10
Valencia, like several of his teammates, produced a much improved performance on Sunday. Barely tested at the back, the Manchester United skipper kept the confident teenager Dwight McNeil in check. Going forward, his output was far better as several crosses found their way to their man, as he looked to play in early balls. Lot of work still left to be done, though.
Chris Smalling: 6.5/10
Burnley didn’t test the Manchester United backline all that much, which is exactly what Smalling would have wanted after the horror show against Tottenham. When the hosts did threaten, the 28-year-old was composed enough to deal with it well. Also took it upon himself to help Lindelof, and it showed in the Swede’s outing.
Victor Lindelof: 7/10
Speaking of Lindelof, this is exactly the kind of game he needed to get some confidence back. Chris Wood looked to target him on Sunday, but the Swede dealt well with the striker for the most part. His qualities on the ball were visible as well, and Lindelof would now hope to build on this outing.
Luke Shaw: 8/10
Another accomplished performance for Shaw, who has surely cemented his place as the first-choice left-back for now. What was notable about his performance, was the recently recalled English international kept Aaron Lennon quiet all through, barely allowing any crosses in from his flank. Was confident going forward once again, and played a key role in Lukaku’s second goal.
Marouane Fellaini: 8/10
A surprise selection that meant Fred played no part on Sunday evening. Fellaini though, vindicated Jose Mourinho’s decision to start him in fine fashion. The Belgian formed a two-pronged holding midfield partnership with Nemanja Matic that further helped the back-four, while creating the required buffer for Paul Pogba.
Marouane Fellaini's game by numbers vs. Burnley:
100% tackles won
7 aerial duels won
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 2, 2018
Cleaned up in his own box a fair few times with his headers, winning seven aerial duels in all, and was disciplined all through the game. Solid tackling – at a 100 per cent success rate – saw him break up several Burnley attacks. All in all, a no-nonsense performance that helped Mourinho & co. immensely.
Nemanja Matic: 7/10
With Fellaini putting in a solid shift beside him, Matic was not forced into action frequently, which is exactly what he needed as he continues to build up his fitness. Recovered the ball well for the most part despite looking off pace at times, and the international break will help him get back to his fittest.
Paul Pogba: 6/10
Not as bad as he was against Brighton and Tottenham, but still far from his best. The pleasing aspect about his game was the fact that he worked hard and linked up play with the front trio. The bad part – switching off at times, and a tame penalty that was easily saved by Joe Hart. Ended the game in solid fashion though, and that is exactly what Mourinho will demand from Pogba going forward.
Jesse Lingard: 7/10
The livewire in attack, Jesse Lingard was a big reason why Manchester United had a two-goal lead by half-time. His movement off the ball, dribbling with it and understanding with Lukaku and Sanchez saw him pose a constant threat, and he very nearly had a goal for himself too. It was his shot that rebounded towards Lukaku for Manchester United’s second. A solid foundation to build on.
Romelu Lukaku: 8/10
Romelu Lukaku has now scored as many Premier League goals as Didier Drogba.
• Drogba: 104 goals in 254 games
• Lukaku: 104 goals in 224 games
Parity with his idol. 👬 pic.twitter.com/upEIYiATba
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 2, 2018
The man of the match on Sunday. But, while Lukaku was clutch with his two goals, well taken goals at that, he could very well have had four or five on the day. It is this tendency to waste clear-cut chances that haunt Manchester United in the big games, like it did against Tottenham.
Nevertheless, it was a solid performance by Lukaku, who even created three chances for his teammates. Mourinho will now be hoping his Belgian hitman can be more clinical going forward. As far as Lukaku is concerned, equalling his idol Didier Drogba’s Premier League goal tally would have pleased him to bits.
Alexis Sanchez: 7.5/10
Another player who shone in the final third for Manchester United, Sanchez was delightful with the way he interchanged play with Lukaku and Lingard in the first half. Teed up Lingard early on, and finally got a well deserved assist when he beautifully lobbed the ball for Lukaku to score.
Taken off at the hour mark, perhaps to prevent the possibility of a second yellow. The tantrum that followed though, is a good sign as that suggests Sanchez’s desperation to play the entire game and contribute even more. Mourinho will likely be pleased with his star man.
Marcus Rashford: 3/10
Brought on for Sanchez, Rashford was a bundle of energy as he continued from where the Chilean had left off. He even earned a penalty when Aaron Lennon fouled him inside the Burnley box. But, a moment of petulance led to his dismissal, and rightly so, although the incident should have also led to Bardsley being sent off.
Ander Herrera: N/A
Brought a sense of calm in the final 15 minutes, when it looked like Burnley might use the numerical advantage to get back into the match. Herrera even got forward a couple of times, forcing Joe Hart into a simple save on one occasion.
Eric Bailly: N/A
On for the final few moments, Bailly barely had time to do anything of note.