Manchester United 3-1 Burnley: Talking points

by Ben Topliss

Manchester United saw off the challenge of Burnley this evening thanks to an unlikely brace from Chris Smalling and a penalty from Robin van Persie but Louis van Gaal‘s side made it difficult for themselves and produced a poor performance during the win.

Here are our talking points from the match:

Awful defending in first half

Against Cambridge United last week, Man United could have easily gone one nil down after Tom Elliott hit the post inside the first minute. The side clearly haven’t learnt their lesson as Will Keane was presented with another golden early chance for Burnley tonight. Unfortunately for them he put a free header wide.

Despite the chance United failed to tighten up and were punished as Danny Ings found space in their box to equalise for Burnley. The goal signalled an awful period for United where they struggled to contain their opponents. One particular clearance from Jonny Evans literally went 30 yards straight above him and back down.

With games against Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea on the horizon it is alarming to see.

Chris Smalling the goalscoring hero

There has been plenty of debate from United fans this season about Wayne Rooney’s best position and whether or not Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao can work together as a partnership. It turns out it doesn’t matter. Step forward, Chris Smalling. The defender came on for Phil Jones after five minutes and scored with his first touch before adding a second just before half time.

It will be a big confidence boost for Smalling who has suffered from plenty of shaky moments this season. Could the 25-year-old be the answer to United’s attacking problems? Probably not.

What’s the problem?

What did Louis van Gaal ask his players to do before that performance? There was no shape, no attacking fluidity and the defence was all over the place. It seemed like any game plan that United had seemed to go out the window when Ings scored Burnley’s equaliser.

It was an awful performance, particularly during the first half, and one nowhere near the required level if United hope to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season. Yet United won the game. Which is all that matters, right?

Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie anonymous again

There may have been some United fans who still felt Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao could work together as a partnership following United’s 0-0 draw against West Ham United. Surely now they will be convinced of their incompatibility following another terrible showing against Burnley.

The duo put in another abject performance, with Falcao failing to register a single shot during the match. It is the latest in a series of frustrating displays and their days at Old Trafford must be numbered. Falcao in particular was anonymous and was replaced by James Wilson after 74 minutes. Van Persie was also poor despite his penalty and looked a shadow of the player who won United the title almost by himself during Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year at the club. Van Gaal will have to do some thinking in the summer when it comes to the future of the pair.

Angel Di Maria back to his old self

Angel di Maria has struggled since his return from injury at the start of 2015 but Man United’s record signing looked like he was getting back to his old self against Burnley. Lively and full of running, Di Maria asked plenty of questions of the Burnley defence, set up Smalling’s second goal and won the penalty which van Persie converted.

The Argentine is too good of a player to flop at United and it was only a matter of time until fans saw his best form again. United were generally below their best but Di Maria really stood out. Van Gaal will hope he can keep it going as the club head into the tail end of the season.

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