The last Premier League game of the year and Manchester United can only hope that it bodes well for better times in 2022.
The victory over a spirited but struggling Burnley at Old Trafford propelled them to sixth in the standings after a few hectic weeks. It’s been 32 years since United entered the New Year outside of the top six, and that infamous ‘Ta’ra Fergie’ banner appeared here in December 1989.
Thursday night was a 80th birthday greeting that floated through Stretford End ahead of kick-off, and Sir Alex Ferguson will have appreciated that from his seat in the Directors’ Box as well as a more positive display and controlled from United who was rewarded with three goals before half-time.
Cristiano Ronaldo (left) celebrates Manchester United’s third goal in a 3-1 win over Burnley with Scott McTominay
Ronaldo’s unorthodox tap-in put United 3-0 in the opening 35 minutes of Premier League clash at Old Trafford
Ex-United boss Sir Alex Ferguson gives the go-ahead following an excellent first-half performance by the Red Devils
It was much needed after unconvincing performances against Newcastle and Norwich, the last two clubs. Burnley sits in the other place in the relegation zone and is now winless in six games, so no one at United should get too carried away.
But at least interim boss Ralf Rangnick remains undefeated and United end a tough year on a high.
When Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes scored in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa here on New Years Day, United led with Liverpool and 2021 looked bright.
They were even in the lead for a while in January, but that lead was quickly reconsidered by Manchester City and a distant second place wasn’t as cheering as some at Old Trafford might suggest.
Ronaldo previously missed a great opportunity to open the scoring in the sixth minute by shooting over the crossbar.
But just two minutes later, Scott McTominay curled up an excellent shot from the edge of the penalty area.
In front of jubilant United fans, the Scotland international celebrates scoring the game’s first goal
PREMIER LEAGUE MATCH FACTS AND DRAWING
Manchester United (4-2-2-2)
De Gea 6; Wan-Bissaka 6.5, Bailly 6 (Varane 66min, 6), Maguire 5.5, Shaw 7.5; McTominay 8, Matic 6.5; Sancho 7, Greenwood 7 (Dalot 81); Cavani 6.5, Ronaldo 6.5 (Fred 90 + 2).
Scorers: McTominay 8, Mee 27 (og), Ronaldo 35.
Manager: Ralf Rangnick 7.
Hennessey 6.5; Lowton 6, Tarkowski 5.5, Mee 5, Taylor 6; Gudmundsson 6.5, Cork 6 (Stephens 58, 6), Westwood 6, McNeil 5.5 (Pieters 84); Lennon 7 (Vydra 74, 6), Wood 6.5.
Scorer: Lennon 38.
Manager: Sean Dyche 6.
Arbitrator: Jon Moss 7.
- premier league
- premier league
- League 1
- League 2
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Division 1
- Scottish Division 2
- Scottish Division 3
- League 1
- series A
- the league
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost the Europa League final and then his job, leaving behind a less than happy camp.
Neither Martial nor Fernandes were in the squad on Thursday. Martial, we now know, is one of the players who want to come out and an increasingly frustrated Fernandes has been suspended after securing his fifth booking of the season at Newcastle on Monday. For dissent, of course. On this proof, there is no guarantee that he will return directly to the team.
He was one of six changes from an appalling team performance at St James’ Park. Burnley boss Sean Dyche was forced into two of his own after Nick Pope and Jay Rodriguez tested positive for Covid-19, so Wayne Hennessey made his first Premier League start in goals since June 2020 and Aaron Lennon played in front.
The Welsh goalkeeper was beaten within eight minutes, but not before Burnley got off to the best start, with Chris Wood sending a diving header from center Matt Lowton.
United doubled their lead when Jadon Sancho (second from right) low shot through the goal deflected Ben Mee and into the net
Sancho is praised for his efforts by teammates Luke Shaw (23) and Nemanja Matic after putting United 2-0
RALF HAS A ROCKET AT THE RED DEVILS!
United boss Ralf Rangnick has publicly criticized his side’s performance against Newcastle – and it seems his players have taken notice as they come out of blocks:
1 Scott McTominay’s opening goal was the first goal Manchester United have scored in the opening 15 minutes of a Premier League game this season. They became the 20th and last team to achieve this.
3 United have scored three goals in the first half of a Premier League game for the first time since being 9-0 demolished from Southampton in February
Cristiano Ronaldo was guilty of a terrible dud on the other end as he crashed to the side with only Hennessey to beat after Luke Shaw’s crossing ball sent the Portuguese star clearly on goal.
Fortunately for United, the excellent Scott McTominay was more clinical moments later when he scored his first goal of the season. It was a night he seemed determined to score.
Mason Greenwood’s effort from a tight angle was blocked and he returned the ball to the edge of the box. It was aimed at Ronaldo who touched, but McTominay saw his chance and wrapped the ball around Ashley Westwood and beyond the blind Hennessey.
Burnley struggled to cope with Shaw’s forays on the left and he was the catalyst for United’s second goal in the 27th minute.
Shaw’s pass encouraged Jadon Sancho to advance to goal and he cut inside James Tarkowski before shooting low to the far corner. The ball nicked Ben Mee on his way inside the post, leaving the hapless Burnley captain with an own goal against his name.
Ronaldo again screamed in despair when he couldn’t get the ball off his feet in front of McTominay’s pass goal, but his moment was drawing near.
Greenwood shifted the game to the right in the 35th minute and Sancho brought the ball back to the edge of the box. McTominay tried his luck again with a curling shot that Hennessey hit off the post, but it rebounded gently for Ronaldo who was onside and free to score into an empty net.
After a disappointing performance at Newcastle, boss Ralf Rangnick was reportedly happy with his squad’s display
Aaron Lennon struck out a goal for Burnley but it wasn’t enough to seriously trouble United who held on
Burnley was down three but certainly not an out and warned they hadn’t given up scoring their first goal in four games.
Lennon grabbed a bad touch from Eric Bailly to win the ball and ran over to Harry Maguire, who looked uncomfortable here at times. The former England winger rushed into the box and unleashed a shot past Maguire and past David de Gea’s dive to give Dyche’s side hope.
Hennessey was the only reason he didn’t completely disappear in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, preventing effort from Greenwood and another McTominay curler from the edge of the box.
Bailly had to leave – which may be a concern for Cote d’Ivoire given he was about to catch a flight to the Africa Cup of Nations when called up for that game by United – Edinson Cavani needed treatment for what he claimed was an elbow in Mee’s head, and Maguire received a painful blow to the ribs.
But those are United’s only concerns as they closed the game – and the year – quite comfortably.
There were however injury concerns for Eric Bailly who had to be replaced by Raphael Varane in the second half
United supporters unveil a banner ahead of the kickoff for Ferguson whose 80th birthday is on New Years Eve
RELIVE ALL THE ACTION AS IT HAPPENS …
Manchester United are hoping for a return to form when they host Burnley in the last Premier League game of 2021 at Old Trafford.
Ralf Rangnick’s side have come under heavy criticism after being forced to save a draw against struggling Newcastle United last time around and will seek a return to victory.
The Red Devils’ victory will take them above Tottenham Hotspur and into the Premier League’s top six as they aim to maintain their attempt to reach the top four.
Follow Sportsmail’s DAN RIPLEY for live coverage of Manchester United v Burnley in the Premier League, including preparation, team news and updates.