Manchester United ended 2021 with a comfortable 3-1 win against Burnley at Old Trafford in the final Premier League game before the new year.
Ralf Rangnick’s side were looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle United last time out, and first-half goals from Scott McTominay and Cristiano Ronaldo either side of a Ben Mee own goal ensured that they did just that, despite Aaron Lennon reducing the deficit before half-time.
It was Burnley’s first game since December 12, having seen their last two fixtures against Watford and Everton postponed due to COVID-19, and the visitors lack sharpness at times at Old Trafford, particularly at the back.
The Red Devils move up to sixth in the Premier League table, while Sean Dyche’s men remain 18th.
Both teams had early chances as Chris Wood headed wide for the visitors before Ronaldo surprisingly fired over after being put through on goal.
United were ahead shortly after as McTominay placed a shot past Wayne Hennessey from the edge of the box as Ronaldo looked to set himself up for a left-footed effort.
The lead was doubled on 27 minutes when Luke Shaw linked up with Jadon Sancho, before the former Borussia Dortmund man cut inside to shoot, with his effort being deflected just inside the far post off the boot of Mee.
It was three just eight minutes later after a McTominay strike was tipped onto the post by Hennessey, only for the ball to fall kindly for Ronaldo for a simple tap-in, but the Clarets pulled one back shortly after as Lennon went on a mazy run before placing the ball low into the far bottom corner.
What does it mean? United finally express themselves under Rangnick
While it was always too early to judge the Rangnick era at Old Trafford, questions were being asked as to why United looked so uninspired in attack at Newcastle considering the wealth of ability in their ranks.
Ronaldo had no reason to storm off in a huff here, though, as the Red Devils created plenty against an uncharacteristically disorganised Burnley, having 12 shots in the first half.
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Bruno Fernandes was missing through suspension this time and, after a more promising showing from the team, there are no guarantees that he will walk back into the side for the next encounter.
Shaw, he (sometimes) won’t let you down
When the England left-back is at the top of his game, he can influence things as much as anyone, and that was the case here as he caused Burnley all sorts of problems down his side.
He made three key passes, more than anyone else, including a terrific throughball for Ronaldo early on and playing in Sancho in the build-up to the second goal, while also boasting the highest passing accuracy in the opposition half (90 per cent), and put in the most crosses (11).
If this was a response to the threat to his place from Alex Telles since Rangnick arrived, then it appears to be a tactic that has worked for the German coach.
Burnley need wins quickly
It won’t quite be panic stations yet for Dyche. His team is in the relegation zone but have games in hand after several recent postponements, although they must convert that ostensible advantage into points.
After 16 games, the Clarets have won just once in the league this season (D8 L7), and despite those games in hand, will be concerned to see only two teams above them who they could catch if they won those games.
They are now without a win in their last 10 Premier League away games (D4 L6), since winning 2-0 at Fulham in May. They last had a longer run without a win on the road between August 2016 and April 2017 (17 games).
Manchester United are at home to Wolves on Monday, while Burnley travel to Leeds United on Sunday.
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