After an abysmal trip to Brighton, Jose Mourinho needed a big result against Tottenham last week. Unfortunately for the Red Devils, the game took an unfortunate turn after Harry Kane put the visitors ahead. Who would have thought it would be ‘do-or-die’ time for Mourinho four games into the season against Burnley. If the Portuguese manager returns from Turf Moor with anything less than three points, his time at Manchester United could come to an untimely end. What can we expect from the game going forward?
After seeing last week’s starting eleven, predicting how Manchester United will line up against Burnley is a futile effort. But we never shy away from a challenge here at Red Devils Report. We will likely see Mourinho revert back to a 4-3-3 formation, with Burnley offering less of a goal threat than Tottenham.
David DeGea will almost certainly retain his rightful position in net, while Chris Smalling could pair up with Eric Bailly in defence. Smalling was one of the only players who didn’t play awfully against Tottenham, and Bailly could be Jose’s only other option after disappointing starts to the season for Lindelof and Jones.
Luke Shaw has been Manchester United’s best player so far this season. In 270 minutes of football, the English left-back averages only one dispossession a game. He averages two successful dribbles and has made 180 successful passes. Worryingly, his tackle success rate is only 29 per cent, only making seven all season. His offensive contributions have been obvious to most fans, but the young defender still needs to offer more at the back.
Captain Antonio Valencia should retain his position as skipper on the right. The captain has only played one game but averages a 66 per cent cross accuracy compared to Luke Shaw’s 20 per cent. His tackle success rate in his sole game versus Tottenham was 100 per cent.
Matic was another Red Devil to make his season debut against Tottenham. His involvement in the game was minimal, registering one shot and 40 passes. His pass accuracy was 80 per cent. In his 61 minutes, he made one interception and one tackle. Despite this, expect to see him start versus Burnley and sit in front of Mourinho’s two centre-backs.
Pogba and Fred will likely make up the rest of the midfield. Pogba failed to standout yet again against Tottenham. Aside from two goals from the penalty spot, Pogba hasn’t contributed to the team with open play goals or assists. He has made 188 passes this season with an 80.3 per cent accuracy.
Fred hasn’t made the impact he would have liked so far at Manchester United, but there are promising signs. He has a pass accuracy of 87.9 per cent, completing 15 successful longballs. There are not many statistics to raise fans’ belief in the Brazilian midfielder, but don’t be surprised to see him improve with each game that passes.
While he may not deserve it, Alexis Sanchez will likely retain his spot on the left wing. Let’s face it, with the money Sanchez is making, Mourinho can’t afford to keep the Chilean on the bench. His performances have been dire. In his two appearances, his shot accuracy is at 25 per cent. Jose must demand more from his ‘should be’ star man.
Lingard’s performance was another silver lining of the match against Tottenham. His work ethic up front put Spurs defenders under pressure leading to turnovers in play. I think I speak for all fans when I say I want him to return to last season’s form as quickly as possible. Hopefully, that starts against Burnley.
The last player likely to feature in Manchester United’s starting lineup is Big Rom. Lukaku has missed two big chances already this season. If he converted all the opportunities he had against Tottenham, the game could have turned out much differently. While it is unlikely Mourinho drops his star striker, Marcus Rashford could also be given a shot to prove himself up top.
I suspect Mourinho will revert to a 4-3-3 formation, however speculation of a 4-4-2 has been thrown around as well. This rumour comes from many fans’ desires to see Sanchez and Lukaku create a partnership up front.
The only guarantee for this game is that in the unlikely scenario Manchester United go down a goal, Fellaini will come on. The Belgian has made a big difference to the games he’s played in, despite how negative the tactics may be.
With Martial in talks to extend his contract with the club, we could see the Frenchman given an opportunity to prove himself. So far, he hasn’t shown any promise this season, except for one spectacular run against Brighton.
With only a point in their first three games, including a loss to the newly promoted Fulham, Burnley are ripe for the picking. Both teams have conceded seven times so far in the season, however, Burnley have scored one less goal than the Red Devils with three.
Two of those three goals have come from James Tarkowski, Burnley’s star defender. If United want to keep a clean sheet they will need to keep the English centre-back quiet on set pieces.
While nothing is certain, this should be an easy game for United. After two extremely disappointing results, expect United to start this game all guns blazing. This could, however, leave United vulnerable, as Mourinho’s centre-back problems have been made obvious against Brighton and Tottenham.
But alas, a prediction must be given.
Burnley 1 – 3 Manchester United
If the Mourinho era has taught us anything, it’s that predictability isn’t common during Manchester United games. Will the manager try and make a bold statement to Ed Woodward or will this be a ‘normal’ game?