Burnley 1 – 0 Manchester United
GOAL: Robbie Blake (18 mins)
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Elliot, Alexander, McCann, Blake, Paterson, Fletcher
Subs: Gudjonsson for Alexander, Eagles for Paterson (72 mins), Thompson for Steven Fletcher (81 mins)
Manchester United: Foster; O’Shea, Brown, J.Evans, Evra; Park, Carrick, Anderson, Giggs; Owen, Rooney.
Subs: Valencia for Anderson (58 mins), Berbatov for Owen (63 mins) Gary Neville for Wes Brown (71 mins)
The build up to this game has been immense; you would think it was a Cup Final. It is the first instance of the Premier League at Turf Moor, and it is a visit from the Champions. Wesley Brown comes back into the starting line up; Rio Ferdinand misses out as does Nemanja Vidic about whom a lot has been written in connection with a possible move away from the club. Darren Fletcher misses out as Anderson makes his first league start. Park comes in and Antonio Valencia drops down to the bench.
Manchester United started the stronger of the two teams. Sir Alex Ferguson was giving Michael Owen his first start of the season and it was he that had an early chance to give United the lead. Evra did well on the wing but Owen failed to make any kind of contact. The striker did manage to put the ball in the net some minutes later but it was given offside. It seemed as if Manchester United were going to get into the newly promoted side straight away but as early signs were encouraging for the reds, Burnley began to settle into the game. They could have taken the lead when Elliot crossed the ball for Steven Fletcher, the new record signing was unable to control the ball for any meaningful shot.
Any forward momentum from United was looking worryingly lacking as the first half progressed; Anderson was guilty of a misplaced pass, Carrick hit the ball into the ground and over the bar from a Giggs corner and Michael Owen gave away the scrappy free kick which eventually led to the opening goal. Ben Foster made himself big and completed a good save to keep the score line blank, if only for a few more seconds. United’s defence panicked as crosses from the home side were blocked. Steven Jordan crossed a high ball back into the United area, Paterson and Evra jumped to head and the ball dropped to Robbie Blake who volleyed spectacularly into the net and gave Ben Foster no chance.
If United needed a jolt to get into the game, they had got a fine one in being a goal down to Burnley. Ryan Giggs showed some spirit before being fouled by Blake, Wes Brown crossed a ball into the area which Michael Owen’s head could not meet. Owen’s luck in front of goal mirrored the United display as a whole in the first half, crucially missing the mark. Despite this United did have the chance to go in level at half time when Robbie Blake collided with Patrice Evra in the area. With the previous penalty taker now plying his trade elsewhere, Michael Carrick stepped up and took the kick which was well saved by Brian Jensen. Jensen’s heroics here would only foreshadow his performance in the second half.
United players took the pitch after half time with many a visiting fan hoping that they still had the sound of Sir Alex Ferguson’s anger, ringing in their ears; United needed to improve.
Evra and Blake continued their tussle as he ran and crossed, despite the attentions of the Burnley scorer, for Park but the effort lead to nothing. Wayne Rooney ran from a central position and sent a powerful shot over the Burnley bar. It was never going to worry Brian Jensen. Anderson was replaced by Antonio Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov replaced Michael Owen, who for the second game in a row had the cutting edge of a plastic knife. Park saw his effort saved by Jensen and Rooney and Giggs played a give and go before Ryan Giggs’ subtle attempt was saved at the feet of the Burnley ‘keeper.
As if to confirm that it would not be Manchester United’s night a fantastic through ball from Giggs went agonisingly out of play as both Rooney and Berbatov left it to each other. The home fans loved it, the frustration showed on the face of Rooney and, well, one can hope Berbatov was disappointed too but you never can tell dear readers.
Wayne Rooney eventually got fed up of trying to put United level in the game and decided instead to turn his attention to Tyrone Mears with a forceful challenge involving some studs would you believe? Lucky to stay on the pitch, Rooney’s removal due to a red card would have been the icing on the cherry on a very flat cake for the Champions; however deserved it might have been.
Sticking to basics, it’s a loss early in the season and it’s against Burnley. The second fact we will get over, but the loss and the performance will have an impact. Foster once again showed good moments mixed with the odd dodgy one, yet he was in no way at fault for the Burnley winner. Anderson was largely absent, both on the wing and in the more central midfield position. Ryan Giggs did well but the focus will once again fall on a certain Michael Owen who failed to make the most of his chances again tonight. We shouldn’t be too quick to complain, but there will come a point where the groans get louder and are harder to ignore. In the meantime where Owen is concerned, we should keep the faith. Owen is a cog in a machine that tonight failed to move into any gear.
All credit to Burnley, that goal was stupendous and their goalkeeper deserved his man of the match award. Even now though GtS can here the distant howls of joy from Merseyside and Chelsea but tonight belongs to the howls of joy from Burnley and their fans. Until next time… GtS