Football

Chris Smalling brace does little to paper over cracks in Man United's performance

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Much was said in the aftermath of Manchester United's match against West Ham at the weekend, where not for the first time they snatched a point in the dying minutes of the game.

The goal came from a long punt upfield that was contested for by substitute Marouane Fellaini for Daley Blind to smash it past keeper Adrian. Sam Allardyce branded Van Gaal's men 'a long ball team' causing the Red Devil's manager to enter into his pre-match conference for their mid-week game at home to Burnley equipped with stats to the contrary.

LVG response

Despite the accusations that United lacked creativity, they fielded the same team, barring the suspended Luke Shaw who was replaced by Paddy McNair and Antonio Valencia making way for Johnny Evans, leading a more conventional looking back four.

The only other tactical differences were Adnan Januzaj spearheading the midfield four at the expense of Angel Di Maria, who dropped into a central midfield role alongside captain Wayne Rooney.

United vs Burnley

It wasn't even five minutes into the game before former United defender Michael Keane got on the wrong side of Phil Jones from a corner only to put his free header wide. Consequently the England centre back fell awkwardly on his ankle, leading him to be replaced by Chris Smalling.

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Smalling's first touch of the ball was the opening goal of the game. The ball was headed into his path by Radamel Falcao, leaving Burnley to rue their missed chance just seconds before.

Fight-back

Despite this setback, the Clarets continued to press and got their reward when right-back Kieran Trippier made a trademark run up the flank before producing an exquisite cross for in form Danny Ings, who timed his run perfectly before heading with a dive past David De Gea.

Burnley finished the half with 10 shots to the home side's three, but right at the death none other than Smalling popped up again to head home Di Maria's perfectly weighted cross.

Second half

The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with Burnley squandering a great chance after only a few minutes - a mix up between Smalling and Herrera (who came on for Blind just past the half hour mark) led to the ball falling kindly to Ings, who failed to connect cleanly.

The game plateaued after that, with no clear cut chances before Di Maria was brought down for the Red's first penalty of the season, which the quiet Robin van Persie expertly put into the side netting.

Flattering result

The 3-1 scoreline flattered United. They were shaky at the back, allowing Burnley to win the majority of first balls and thus cause many problems. Furthering this, Van Persie and Falcao failed to influence the game or create a connection between themselves. For large chunks of the second half Rooney was playing as a holding-midfield player, frequently being the furthest man back.

Despite now regaining third place after the Saint's only managed a 0-0 draw against the Hammers, there lack of creativity and defensive stability will no doubt catch up with them, but the question is, at what cost?

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Topics:
Football
Manchester United

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