In a weekend which saw journalists frantically Googling the word ‘Hegel’, and a plane banner labelling the club’s Executive Vice-Chairman a ‘specialist in failure’ there was the small matter of United playing a game of football – and winning.
While United’s 2-0 win at Turf Moor is hardly one that’s likely to be etched into the annals of history, there’s every chance it could be looked upon one day as, dare I even whisper the words: ‘United and Jose Mourinho turned a corner.’ The Empire struck back and with Mourinho switching from Darth Vader mode with the press to becoming the fans very own Ewok, all warm and cuddly, it was a weekend that showed perhaps the Reds aren’t quite staring into the abyss just yet.
So what did United’s win over Burnley show us other than Mourinho is still capable of sending eleven men out onto a rectangle of grass to score more goals than the opposition?
1. Romelu Lukaku has regained his mojo.
Forgive me for starting with a negative but there’s been some serious doubts about the Belgian forward’s goalscoring ever since his initial purple patch ended with the club around September last season. Lukaku has always scored goals, but his ratio dipped from around two every three games, to one every three which is worrying for a player who’s the focal point of the Reds’ attack.
A World Cup which saw him perform admirably if not amazingly and a so-so performance against Brighton, not to mention a so flat one against Spurs had a few of us worried. Lukaku took his two relatively easy chances well, should have had at least one penalty and Ben Mee should have seen red if not once but twice for stopping the Belgian scoring illegally. A brace, but more importantly a performance that showed defenders struggle to cope with him when he’s on form has got Romelu looking dangerous once more.
2. Marouane Fellaini is a Manchester United player for a reason.
If there’s one man who seems to epitomise how far we done fell post Sir Alex Ferguson it’s the lanky midfielder with the name that rhymes with caravan. Yet, Fellaini also epitomises why United can still get a result from difficult grounds. To his credit the lankier of the two Belgians never goes missing, despite his detractors and his performance at Turf Moor was excellent. Fellaini read the game well, got stuck in when needed and kept possession with a minimum of fuss, I’ll get grief for this but I don’t care – it was the best midfield display by a United player this season. Don’t @ me.
3. The fans still think he’s Special.
While his boss may be persona non grata amongst many Reds, Jose Mourinho remains popular, at least with the match going United fans who sang his name with gusto in East Lancashire. The former Chelsea boss has been on something of a charm offensive of late with the fans and carried it on by giving one young Red in the crowd his coat at full time. It’s results the fans care about and if Mourinho continues to deliver them, no amount of criticism in the press will matter, it’ll just be fun watching journalists fuming that Reds aren’t really biting.
4. Alexis Sanchez shows a spark.
It would be madness to claim the former Arsenal winger had a great game, but at least for the first time this season he played at a level that reminded us all why we spend £234 million a week on his wages. Sanchez gave Lukaku an easy header for United’s first and was lively and skilful enough to deserve the right to strop when he was subbed on the hour. We need to see more of this from him – skills not strops, obviously.
5. Like Wythenshawe, Rashford sees Red.
Yes Phil Bardsley also deserved a red card- if not for at least two yellow cards. One yellow for the kick on young Marcus and the other for sticking his head towards him, which bizarrely warranted a red for Rashford but not the Burnley defender. Rashford ‘got played’ and will now miss three games, while I personally love the fact he doesn’t take any sh*t, the England international needs to learn there’s a certain way to handle Burnley defenders – usually baffling them with algebra or letting them know man’s landed on the moon.
*all odds are subject to change