Optimism high for both Manchester United and Burnley ahead of Tuesday's meeting
Jose Mourinho's men may be trailing Manchester City by 13 points but they can still be encouraged by an improvement on last season, while Burnley are the surprise package of the Premier League
Manchester United’s home match against Burnley last season seemed frustrating at the time for Jose Mourinho’s side.
United had 37 attempts on goal, but couldn’t score once. Burnley goalkeeer Tom Heaton, who had started his career at Old Trafford, was outstanding, but the game was not a one off.
United drew more games at home last season than they won. Ten of the 19 visitors to Old Trafford went home with a point as a low scoring United side struggled to break down teams.
Burnley had an uncompromising back line last season and they have improved since, despite selling Michael Keane, their best defender.
They do not score many – they have managed only seven goals in ten away games and yet still won five of them.
Burnley's priority this season is to avoid relegation, but they have already amassed 32 of their 40-point target at the half-way stage and sit in seventh place in the table.
It is an incredible success story for a predominately British team whose average wages are a fraction of those around them.
Burnley’s average first team wage is reportedly £26,375 (Dh129,400), a small amount compared to some of the bigger sides in the Premier League.
While their home form and 1-0 wins has been a strength, Burnley also have significantly improved away from home.
Sean Dyche’s side beat champions Chelsea away on the first day of the season, then drew at Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in their next away games before beating Everton at Goodison Park.
Burnley have only lost two of their nine away matches - at Manchester City and Leicester City.
The team from the smallest town to host Premier League football have top six away form and the 3,000 fans who will travel an hour south to Old Trafford will be more confident of a result of a result there than they’ve ever been, even though they are missing Heaton, Robbie Brady and Stephen Ward through injury.
They have also conceded fewer goals on their travels than United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.
United’s home form is much stronger this term. Until the recent defeat to Manchester City which floored Mourinho’s men and cast a cloud over the club’s December, United were the only team in England’s top six divisions with a 100 per cent home record.
That has helped them climb to second over the sixth place they occupied for most of last season and United will feel confident of winning their remaining games of 2017, both of them at home against Burnley and then Southampton on Saturday.
The mood at Old Trafford remains deflated after the last-minute defeat at Bristol City in the League Cup and Leicester’s 93rd minute equaliser on Saturday which saw United slip 13 points behind City in the title standings. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford spurned chances for United to have wrapped things up before Leicester levelled, with Mourinho stating: “We didn’t win because we missed incredible chances.
"I would say joke chances. We were childish in their box and childish in ours. It was an easy match to win, but when you lose big chances like we did, it’s childish.”
But this time two years ago United were in crisis as Louis van Gaal’s side fell apart and the Dutchman’s stock sunk so low that he lost the faith of most United fans.
Things have got markedly better and Mourinho remains the man for most fans, despite the looming spectre of Manchester City’s current dominance.
Updated: December 25, 2017 09:28 AM