Manchester United let another two precious points slip at home on Saturday as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Premier League battlers Burnley.
The result consigned United to a winless month in the Premier League, with the club’s only victories coming in the Europa League and EFL Cup in October.
Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands and Ander Herrera was sent off in what was an eventful day at Old Trafford, where United really should have won by three or more goals.
In the end it was only the heroics of former United goalkeeper Tom Heaton, the goalposts and some ordinary finishing that allowed Burnley to escape Old Trafford with a point, but that will be of little consolation to United, now some eight points off top spot in the Premier League after 10 games.
ONE OF THOSE DAYS?
You can only say that it has been, “one of those days”, for United in front of goal so many times before you have to acknowledge that United has a serious problem putting the ball in the back of the net.
As already mentioned, Heaton had an absolute field day at Old Trafford, and the United academy graduate ought to be paid overtime for the extent of his heroics at his old club, but one cannot help feel that as good as he was, United really should have taken him out of the equation with one or more of their chances.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was again guilty more than most, with one miss at the far post particularly glaring as the game entered the closing period.
It would be hard to poke too many holes in what was otherwise an outstanding team performance, but unfortunately all that counts for little if United continue to finish so poorly.
It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause other than to say that United’s forwards and midfielders simply are not doing their job inside the opposition 18-yard-box, because in general, United’s play was magnificent.
Outside of the poor finishing, it is really hard to point out too many other flaws.
As expected, Burnley put in a hard-working, physical performance and stacked their defence with numbers but that did little to stop United getting into the groove.
This was not a case of United failing to break down an organised defence. Much of the post-game review seems to be giving the Burnley defence plenty of credit for their performance, but that seems at odds with the amount of chances United were able to create. Realistically, it was only Heaton’s performance and United’s failure to finish that made Burnley’s defence look half decent.
I feel fair in saying that I have held back in criticising referees for most of this season because ultimately while they have not done United any favours, they have not decided games for or against United.
This is again the case, as whether or not Mark Clattenberg awarded what looked a stonewall penalty for Jon Flangan’s trailing leg caught Matteo Darmian, United still had more than enough opportunities to win.
Having said that, it is just another decision United have a right to be aggrieved with this season.
Against Manchester City in the first derby of the season, Claudio Bravo escaped giving away a penalty and a certain red card for fouling Wayne Rooney as the last man. Days later in the Europa League, United lost 1-0 to Feyenoord to a clearly offside goal, before at Watford, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw were battered without reprise as United suffered a shock defeat.
Again, I do not think any of those decisions single-handedly cost United those games, but they certainly do not help.
The failure to award a penalty for the clear trip on Darmian was just the latest in a string of bad decisions against United.
Even Herrera’s second yellow card seemed harsh. The Spaniard was late, but he had clearly lost his footing and slipped into the foul as opposed to diving in.
It was at least good to see Paul Pogba put in a good shift.
The Frenchman posted some good numbers, winning 10 of 15 duels, completing four out of five attempted take-ons and winning 60 per cent of his aerial duels according to statistics from Sportsmate.
The midfielder only had one bad moment, when his error put Burnley’s Andre Gray through on goal, but otherwise this was much closer to the sort of Pogba we want to see week in, week out. Commanding, penetrative and hard-working.
There might be a simple reason for the sorry state of Ibrahimovic’s form in front of goal. Tiredness.
The former Sweden international is no spring chicken anymore and surely the rigours of playing three games a week are beyond him.
Once again, his overall link up play was good, but his constant inability to hit the back of the net from good positions must surely be a huge concern for Mourinho.
Arguably, the Swede has cost United more points now than any shoddy defence and with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney and Martial all capable of playing as a number nine, he cannot continue to be given so many chances.