Burnley v Manchester United, Sunday 2nd September, 16:00
It’s not all doom & gloom for the Red Devils
United fans will expect a response from their team after succumbing 3-0 to Spurs last time out, but the Reds have good reason to think they’ll get back to winning ways against a stretched Burnley.
They had 1.4 expected goals versus Spurs, compared with their opponents 1.81, and while that still works against their favour it suggests the final scoreline flattered Pochettino’s men somewhat. Indeed, they were all-square going into the break as Romelu Lukaku missed two big chances with the game still goalless, and on another day that could easily have changed the whole complexion of proceedings.
Sanchez return makes for stronger system
They can boast further ammunition with the return of Alexis Sanchez to the line-up. The Chile international has only started one game so far (their opening day win over Leicester) and should be fresh for the new season having enjoyed a rare summer off.
He was only fit enough to make the bench against Spurs, but should help make United more lethal in the final third following a strong pre-season where he showed glimpses of his best, including the opening goals against Real Madrid and AC Milan.
The return of Sanchez should also see United revert to a more traditional back four in order to provide some natural width in advanced areas. Jose Mourinho clearly doesn’t hold Anthony Martial in the highest of regards and instead experimented with utilizing Ander Herrera on the right hand side of a back three against Spurs.
It was an area in which the Spanish midfielder looked far from secure, though this was probably the manager sending a message to the board about the failure to bring in defensive reinforcements than anything else. That should see Eric Baily return to the side after being left out of the matchday squad entirely for the encounter with Spurs, and so overal Utd should be more cohesive.
Opponents fixture pile up
Burnley’s squad depth hasn’t been able to cope with the overload of fixtures as they’ve already played nine competitive matches compared with United’s three. Each of their Premier League clashes have come after Thursday night European ties and as a result they’ve two of three winless games.
Their only point came against a poor Southampton outfit, while they conceded seven goals in total in defeats to Watford and Fulham. Furthermore, their European hangover should be compounded by the fact it’s all been in vain, falling at the final hurdle to Olympiakos before the group stages.
The upcoming international break should provide Sean Dyche an opportunity to regroup, so taking them on just before is ideal for the Reds. Since 2009/10, United have suffered defeat by three or more goals on 10 occasions, and they’ve gone on to win their next outing seven times including all four on the road. While United were criticized for a perceived lack of effort against Brighton, this was less of an issue against Spurs.
By bringing back the indefatigable Sanchez, the determination he’ll inevitably display should rub off on others too and result in a less lethargic display. Given Lukaku has managed just one goal in eight outings for club and country, the Chilean may just provide that spark.
Including those goals against Real and Milan, he’s netted within the opening 24 minutes in four of the five games in which he’s scored for United, while they emerged victorious in all but one of these games (they beat Milan on penalties).
*all odds are subject to change