Surely, this was going to be the game that clicked? The game that sprung United’s expensive elite into action, after picking up a solitary point in the previous two games against Liverpool and Chelsea. Jose Mourinho picked up a much needed win in the week, when United overcame Manchester City to win 1-0 following Juan Mata strike, but before kick off he was well aware that his side hadn’t won since the 4-1 thumping of Leicester City over a month ago and surely playing a side who last picked up a point at Old Trafford in the January of 1971.
Sadly for the United faithful, thirty-seven shots on goal couldn’t beat the human wall that is Tom Heaton. Ander Herrera was sent off for a very soft second bookable offence, whist Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a whole host of chances throughout the match. Mourinho was sent to the stands, following comments made about Mark Clattenburg decision of not awarding the home side a penalty following a clumsy challenge from Jon Flanagan on Matteo Darmian. United are now eight points off top spot, or off the relegation zone – depends on how you look at it.
As United boss Mourinho was sent to the stands, it was left to Rui Faria to speak to the media following the draw. United’s assistant manager was full of praise for Tom Heaton for a string of top saves to keep United out. Jesse Lingard had a header saved in the first half whilst the former United goalkeeper, who never made a first team appearance, made an absolutely top class stop from an acrobatic Ibrahimovic in the second half. The Swede, who is struggling in front of goal at the moment, smashed a bicycle kick goal bound which was thwarted by Heaton’s closing down and outstretched right arm. It was a save of the highest magnitude and post match Peter Schmeichel tweeted his admiration for the stop.
Faria was frustrated by the result however praised the players for being “fantastic”:
“You always believe. When the best player on the pitch is their goalkeeper, you always believe that a minimum of one goal will happen but it didn’t happen. We need to keep going, to keep fighting and the players need to keep believing because this is the way, with the right mentality and the right approach to every match. The results will come and we will have better days.
Football is a little bit like this. There are moments when you create so many chances and the ball doesn’t go in. You can’t score a goal. There are moments when you create one or two chances and you score. But I think it is important to say that when we play well, when we believe and when we create so many chances then good things will happen. The goals will start coming and this is what we need to believe. The boys deserve more than what happened today. We will have better days for sure and happy days but, again, I want to congratulate all of them because they were fantastic.”
All the talk between the fans after the game focused on two incidents; i) Herrera’s sending off and ii) Ibrahimovic misfiring in front of goal. Firstly, the sending off was extremely harsh as it is clear to see that Herrera slips into Dean Marney, whilst trying to close the Burnley midfielder down:
Herrera's second yellow gets more baffling the more you watch it pic.twitter.com/gt1rfjWItw
— The Peoples Person (@PeoplesPerson_) October 29, 2016
It is a foul, however there isn’t anything malicious about the challenge and did not warrant a booking. Mourinho made some changes post the sending off, which were extremely questionable. The Portuguese took off Juan Mata, who put in a good shift in the number ten role and was unlucky not to score as his left footed shot hit the post in the second half, and Jesse Lingard – who was lively down the right hand side – and replaced them with Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini. They were both odd decisions and neither Rooney or Fellaini made any significant impact.
The way the game was going, Herrera wasn’t needed as a holding midfielder, and he could well have been substituted, as United were increasing the pressure going forward with Paul Pogba stepped it up in the second half. The Frenchman, who has faced criticism since his world record transfer fee from Juventus put in a great performance second half and put in superb cross to Ibrahimovic in the final few minutes of the game, which the Swede shot wide.
It wasn’t the only shot that Ibrahimovic wasted. In the first half, Juan Mata played a superb ball into the forward who was one on one with Heaton and although the Burnley goalkeeper was quick off his line and spread himself well – Ibrahimovic could have lifted it over Heaton, rounded him or even toe poked it past him. United’s number nine hasn’t scored since finding the net against Zorya Luhansk at the end of September and if Wayne Rooney was dropped for poor form, Ibrahimovic shouldn’t be surprised to find himself on the bench against Swansea City on Sunday. Anthony Martial could surely be played through the centre or indeed Marcus Rashford, who has been forced to move wide to accommodate the Swede.