Anthony Martial scored his third goal in two Premier League matches to help Manchester United to a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor that moves the Red Devils up to fifth in the table.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men kept their first clean sheet in the league since September and successfully broke down Burnley’s packed defence with some patient attacking play, forcing the opener just before half-time and doubling their lead in second-half stoppage time through Marcus Rashford.
After losing 2-0 at Watford in their previous away game, United delivered the improvements they sorely needed at the back while dominating possession in midfield despite the absence of Paul Pogba, who was rested following his return to fitness, as they built on a 4-1 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.
Burnley were looking to make it three league wins from four but failed to recover from an error by full-back Charlie Taylor that led to Martial’s strike, squandering a flurry of late opportunities before Rashford scored his 12th league goal of the season.
Rashford stung Nick Pope’s palms with a free-kick from 30 yards in a cagey opening spell in which the England forward also hit the outside of the post with a low, first-time shot from the edge of the box.
The ball fell to Martial little more than six yards out after 33 minutes, but the France international’s effort was crucially blocked on the line by former United defender Phil Bardsley.
Having kept the visitors at bay for 44 minutes, Burnley self-destructed when Taylor fumbled possession and allowed Andreas Pereira to feed Martial, who took a touch and stroked a low shot past Pope into the bottom-right corner.
Martial had the ball in the net again four minutes into the second half, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on James Tarkowski and Burnley almost equalised when Bardsley’s angled drive drew a diving save from David de Gea.
Harry Maguire brought down Jack Cork on the edge of the United box to present substitute Johann Gudmundsson with a chance from a free-kick, but the Iceland international blazed over the crossbar.
Burnley threatened an equaliser throughout a frenetic final 15 minutes only to be caught out right at the end when Daniel James sprinted over the half-way line in posession and squared to Rashford, who rounded Pope before scoring his second in as many games.
What does it mean? Creativity shortage sets up tense finish
Solskjaer will have been pleased to see his defence cut out the errors that cost them dearly at Vicarage Road but a failure to put the game to bed sooner might have been punished by a side better than Burnley.
Rashford runs Burnley ragged
Finding a link between midfield and attack has often been United’s problem against sides who sit back this season, but the immense amount of ground covered by Rashford – who frequently dropped deep to carry the visitors forward – solved that here. He then rounded off the win in the latter stages.
Taylor toils in tussle with James
James has proven himself to be a handful for Premier League defences since he joined United in January and Clarets left-back Taylor struggled to cope with him, playing misplaced passes and getting forced into errors by the rapid Wales winger.
Key Opta Facts
– Burnley are without a Premier League clean sheet against ‘big-six’ opposition in each of their past 38 matches, last stopping their opponents from scoring in October 2016, a 0-0 against United at Old Trafford.
– United are one of just three sides Sean Dyche has failed to win against in the top-flight alongside Arsenal (nine) and Sheffield United (one). The Burnley manager has drawn four and lost five against the Red Devils.
– Rashford has 16 goal involvements in 20 Premier League games this season (12 goals, four assists), as many as he got in 33 games in the competition last term (10 goals, six assists).
– Martial has scored more Premier League goals (41) and had more goal involvements (61) than any other United player since his debut in September 2015.
– The Frenchman has also been directly involved in 10 goals in his 13 Premier League starts this season.
While Burnley will fancy their chances of taking three points when Aston Villa visit Turf Moor on New Year’s Day, United could find victory harder to come by against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
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