Manchester United’s run of eight consecutive wins in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opening eight matches may have ended but Victor Lindelöf’s late equaliser keeps them unbeaten and was the kind of comeback made famous by the 20-times champions.
Chris Wood’s 81st-minute header looked to have proved the winner despite Paul Pogba’s late penalty strike but after bombarding Burnley’s goal up stepped Lindelöf to smash home in added time to send the home support delirious.
Solskjaer made five changes from Friday’s FA Cup win at Arsenal. He retained Romelu Lukaku and introduced Marcus Rashford, the first time they operated together under the Norwegian. Alexis Sánchez was dropped after scoring, Jesse Lingard joining him on the bench, with no place at all for Anthony Martial due to a minor injury. The other four new selections were Juan Mata, David De Gea, Phil Jones and Andreas Pereira, who replaced Ander Herrera, the midfielder also a substitute.
After Burnley’s 5-0 walloping at Manchester City in the Cup on Saturday, Sean Dyche reverted to the XI that drew at Watford in their last league outing.
In selecting Pereira and Lukaku Solskjaer took what appeared a gamble. He stood down Herrera from what had been his first-choice side and moved Rashford from the No 9 berth out left to accommodate Lukaku.
The early signs augured well regarding Rashford. First, he combined sharply with Mata and Pogba and stood up a cross from his wing that Burnley scrambled out for a corner. Then, he was in the area to have a shot blocked. Next came a one-two with Lukaku, though when in on Tom Heaton’s goal he stabbed wide when scoring looked easier.
Pereira’s first contribution was to spray a wild ball and cede possession and from this juncture Burnley enjoyed a passage of pressure inside United’s half.
They went close after Chris Wood found Ashley Westwood and Jones’s intervention nearly became a pass to Ashley Barnes as Luke Shaw slipped but the central defender cleaned up.
Rashford hit Heaton’s left post and while flagged offside the sense was of United moving into high gear. When Jones rolled a pass to Pogba in the centre circle region, he dropped a shoulder, found Mata who found Ashley Young. Suddenly Burnley were turned but the captain’s cross disappointed.
What Burnley did well was press United inside their half. Pereira often had to go backwards when receiving due to the close attention of a white shirt.
The way to beat this can be quick ball forward as when Lukaku took possession and flipped in a delivery towards Rashford in Burnley’s area. As the interval neared Pogba had a finish disallowed – correctly – for offside.
As soon as the second half started there was a scare for United. When De Gea tried to prevent a corner he handed possession to Barnes but to the goalkeeper’s relief it pin-balled back to him.
The home side’s response was to move up-field, a sequence that ended with Mata hitting straight at Heaton. More fluidity followed when Young pinged a 40-yard diagonal pass to Shaw along the left. He killed the ball, found Pogba, and his effort had to be watched closely by the keeper.
Then disaster struck for United and it was down to Pereira. The midfielder he dawdled near his own D and Jack Cork pounced and dispossessed him. From here the ball was left to Barnes and he smashed home.
This left Pereira aghast and United behind for the first time under Solskjaer. Here, then, was a new test for the Norwegian: could his side keep calm and respond?
When Young forced a corner United had a chance. The same player’s delivery found Shaw and his attempt flashed across goal only for Pogba’s back-heel to be steered wide.
Just after the hour mark Solskjaer acted. This was the obvious move of pulling off the disappointing – and disappointed –Pereira and bringing on Lingard. United turned the heat up and after Lukaku saw a close-range effort saved he was replaced by Sánchez. This moved Rashford back inside but the question of why Solskjaer had tinkered in the first place remained.
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