Manchester United will be looking to end 2019 on a high when they take on Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday night.
The busy festive period continues to give us games on practically a daily basis, as mere hours after the end of Gameweek 19, the latest matchday is set to commence. The final game on Saturday will have Manchester United in action, as they lock horns with Burnley at Turf Moor.
For Burnley, it has been a case of one step forward and one back all season long. The Clarets have lost 9 of their 19 games till date, including their most recent fixture, as they went down 1-0 to Everton in what was memorable for being Carlo Ancelotti’s first game in-charge of the Toffees. But, the congested nature of the mid-table means they are just 5 points off fifth-placed Tottenham.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have only been marginally better than their hosts, having struggled to break down low blocks for much of the campaign. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. will be buoyed by a return to winning ways, as they beat Newcastle United 4-1 on Boxing Day, although the wounds from their last result on the road – a 2-0 loss at Watford – would still be fresh.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-0 win for Manchester United, with Romelu Lukaku scoring a match-winning brace. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Sean Dyche does not have any pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. On Saturday, the Burnley manager is only likely to be without two first-team players, with Darron Gibson (groin) and Aaron Lennon (illness) being major doubts.
Dyche is expected to line Burnley up in his trademark 4-4-2 formation, although there are some rotations in order for the Manchester United game. Nick Pope should retain his place between the sticks, where he is likely to be kept busy by a dangerous Manchester United attack.
The Clarets have tightened up at the back since conceding nine goals in back-to-back games against Manchester City and Tottenham, letting in just one goal in three matches since. And so, Dyche is unlikely to fiddle around much with the combination that has been doing well.
The only change in defence, therefore, is likely to be Erik Pieters replacing Charlie Taylor in the left-back slot. Phil Bardsley will start on the opposite flank, with Ben Mee and James Tarkowski combining at the heart of the Burnley backline. Up ahead in midfield, Robbie Brady could make way for Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork could partner up in the centre of the park, with Dwight McNeil set to be deployed on the left side of the midfield once again. McNeil will carry the bulk of the creative threat for Burnley, with Westwood and Cork being tasked with keeping things tight in the middle of the park, while Gudmundsson will pose a great deal of threat from set-pieces.
Upfront, Ashley Barnes is expected to start after only being a second half substitute against Everton. Barnes will have Chris Wood as his strike partner, with Jay Rodriguez dropping down to the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Cork, McNeil; Wood, Barnes
Scott McTominay will be the major absentee for Manchester United when they pay a visit to Burnley on Saturday. The Scottish international is set to be on the sidelines for the foreseeable future after sustaining a knee injury in the 4-1 win over Newcastle United.
Other than McTominay, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be without Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Like his counterpart in the Burnley dugout, the Manchester United boss could make a few alterations to the starting lineup on Saturday.
David de Gea will likely keep his place in goal, but the defence could see one shuffle. Luke Shaw was in decent touch against Newcastle, but could make way for club captain Ashley Young in the left-back spot. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire, though, should start once again.
Up ahead in midfield, McTominay’s absence will force Solskjaer into making one of the changes. The fit again Paul Pogba should return to the starting lineup, having appeared off the bench in each of the last two games. Pogba will accompany Fred in the midfield double pivot.
Mason Greenwood was impressive last time out against Newcastle, but could drop to the bench after playing the entire 90 in the game. Daniel James, who was an unused substitute in the game, should start in Greenwood’s stead against Burnley.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were both taken off with more than a quarter of the game left on Thursday and are likely to start. Andreas Pereira, though, could make way for Jesse Lingard, who will reprise the No. 10 role at Burnley.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young; Fred, Pogba; James, Lingard, Rashford; Martial
- Since winning their first ever Premier League meeting with Manchester United in August 2009, Burnley are winless in their subsequent nine games against them in the competition (D4 L5).
- Manchester United have conceded just one goal in their five Premier League away games against Burnley, keeping a clean sheet in each of the last four and winning the last three.
- Burnley have not lost their last league game in a calendar year since 2012 (0-1 vs Leicester City in the Championship), winning three and drawing as many since. Manchester United, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last league game of a year since 2011 (2-3 vs Blackburn Rovers), winning four and drawing three in the period.
- None of Burnley’s last 16 Premier League home games have finished level, with the Clarets winning eight and losing eight at Turf Moor. No other side is a longer run without a draw at home in the competition.
- Manchester United are on a 14-match Premier League run without a clean sheet, and their tally of two this season is the fewest in the division.
Player to Watch
After a forgettable debut season at Old Trafford, Fred is finally starting to settle down at Manchester United. The last couple of months have represented a period of resurgence for the Brazilian, who is finally starting to repay some of the money that was splashed on him.
All-round performances have become a norm, with Fred tightening up on the defensive front while also being in-charge of setting a quick tempo to Manchester United’s forward moves. Against a Burnley side that will look to remain compact and frustrate Manchester United, Fred’s display with the ball at his feet will be crucial.
Scott McTominay’s absence through injury also means the onus will be on him to shoulder much of the defensive burden in the middle of the park. A big game for Fred that could prove just how far he has come as a key player for Manchester United.
Burnley 1-2 Manchester United
Manchester United got a Christmas gift against Newcastle United, who practically handed the win to them on a platter. Burnley, though, will likely be much tighter at the back than the Magpies were on Boxing Day. Having said that, the Clarets will also take the game to their visitors more than Newcastle did, meaning the openings will be there to be exploited.
Manchester United, on the other hand, cannot keep clean sheets at the moment, with the defence faltering in one way or another in just about every game. The physical approach of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood will only make matters more challenging for them.
Expect a keenly contested affair to ensue, with Burnley possibly taking the lead. However, as has been the case with Manchester United more often than not lately, having their backs against the wall should bring out the best in them. To that end, The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co.