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Why United Failed to Grab Full Three Points Against Burnley Despite a Dominant Display | Tactical Analysis and Match Review

Burnley vs Manchester United

Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday. The Red Devils put up a dominant performance but dropped two precious points. This is their second draw in the last five Premier League games besides a shocking 1-0 loss to Wolves at Old Trafford at the beginning of last month.

The result puts United’s bid for a top-4 finish in jeopardy, as Arsenal went level on points last night after their 1-0 win at the Molineux Stadium with a game in hand. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur are also well placed to overtake United with two games in hand.

Burnley vs Manchester United
Image Obtained Via:

Starting Line-Ups:

Ralf Rangnick sprang a few surprises with his team selection. Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped to the bench to make room for Edinson Cavani. The rest of the team remained unchanged from United’s defeat to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.

Burnley vs Manchester United
Image Obtained Via:

Burnley included January acquisition, Wout Weghorst, into the starting line-up. Josh Brownhill and Jay Rodriguez replaced Dale Stephens and Aaron Lennon from their 0-0 draw to Watford.

First Half:

Manchester United set up in a 4-3-3 of sorts against Burnley. Rangnick utilized his wingers in relatively narrow positions. The midfield also was positioned at staggered heights. Bruno Fernandes had a free role and was often United’s most advanced player in build-ups. Paul Pogba occupied the right half-space, while McTominay sat ahead of the two centre-backs.

Burnley vs Manchester United
United’s shape in possession vs Burnley’s shape in defence

Burnley were set up solidly in defence. They sat deep and tried to congest the centre of the field. Their midfield and defensive lines positioned themselves diagonally to close down spaces better.

One of United’s biggest hindrances during build-ups was Scott McTominay. The Scottish midfielder was repeatedly caught in the cover shadow of Weghorst or Rodriguez. This meant the Red Devils had to utilise the wings to progress most of the time.

The Clarets were active in affecting side-overloads. This forced the visitors to largely recycle possession between their defenders. They also cut off the options for United to rely on switches of play. The far-side winger remained wide to mark United’s far-side wide men.

Higher up the field, the hosts looked to compress the playing field even more. They barely offered room between the lines. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford dropped wider to receive possession, while Bruno Fernandes attempted to make runs into the box.

However, Manchester United started on the front foot against Burnley. Pogba and Bruno constantly supported the wingers to create overloads in the half-spaces. This helped to open up spaces wider and higher up the field, for the full-backs to attack. This created good opportunities for cut-backs or crosses into the box.

Player Shot Creating Actions
Bruno Fernandes 9
Paul Pogba 1
Luke Shaw 9
Diogo Dalot 3
Marcus Rashford 5
Jadon Sancho 7

The left-wing in particular was a productive outlet for Rangnick’s men. Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho all looked bright in the first half, and constantly terrorized Burnley’s defence.

Burnley vs Manchester United
United Attack Sides Image Obtained Via:

One of United’s biggest problems of the night was Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan was drafted into the team as he is the only player Rangnick has, who can hold off defenders and play with his back to the goal. However, Cavani had a disappointing outing. The 34-year-old had just 27 touches and 2 shots. He was often found deeper in the field than Fernandes.

Edinson Cavani
Cavani Touch-Map Image Obtained Via:

The Red Devils thought they had the lead when Raphael Varane nodded in a Bruno Fernandes free-kick. However, a VAR intervention meant the goal was harshly ruled out, for a foul by Maguire on Jay Rodriguez.

United continued to attack, and it paid off. Marcus Rashford had switched over to the left-wing. The Englishman received Bruno’s pass and drew Connor Roberts away, before picking out Luke Shaw on the overlap. Shaw’s cut-back evaded 7 Burnley players in the box and found Pogba for the finish.

The goal did not stem United’s momentum. 4 minutes later, Rashford thought he had forced an own-goal from Brownhill. The goal was ruled out by VAR for a foul on Ben Mee by Pogba. Manchester United continued to pile on the pressure, and Nick Pope affected 4 saves in the first half to keep Burnley in the game.

The Clarets failed to register a single shot in the first period. Their narrow structure helped to cut-off United’s build-up from the central areas. However, McNeil and Cornet were often too deep out of possession, while Weghorst and Rodriguez did not have the speed to trouble United’s centre-backs on the counter.

Burnley vs Manchester United
Burnley First Half Touch-Map, little presence in and around United’s box (Image Obtained Via:

The Red Devils were aggressive without the ball and looked to press higher up the field. The Clarets resorted to a long-ball approach. McTominay, Varane, Dalot, Maguire and Shaw won 12 of the 19 headers that they contested. Manchester United kept over 60% of the ball and kept Burnley firmly away from their box.

At half-time, a dominant Manchester United were clearly in control of the tie. Sean Dyche’s men were lacklustre and short of ideas. However, it was apparent that United would need another goal to put some daylight between their opponents.

Second Half:

Burnley began the second half with more intent. Dyche made a few small tweaks to his side’s set-up to gain some control when the Clarets had possession. The hosts tried to transition quickly after regaining possession. They did this by usually dropping Roberts as a third centre-back option and allowing Pieters to push higher up. McNeil and Cornet also came in deeper, while the centre-forwards used the space between the lines to win duels.

Pieters(top) and Roberts(bottom) heat-map. (Image Obtained Via:

The visitors lost their shape out of possession. Fernandes was often caught high up the field with the front 3. The staggered positioning of Pogba and McTominay, combined with a pragmatic back-four helped the Clarets win second balls in the attacking half.

Burnley vs Manchester United
Burnley’s shape to win duels in United’s half, United offered too much space between the lines

And the goal came soon: A medley of errors.

Burnley were allowed a quick attacking transition after Manchester United failed to take advantage of a corner.

Image 1: The combination of a high second line and conservative back-line allows Burnley to pick out Weghorst in space. McNeil on the far side is also unmarked.
Image 2: Maguire overcommits allowing Weghorst into space. Dalot is caught ball-watching, while Luke Shaw plays Jay Rodriguez onside.
Image 3: Rodriguez takes a poor touch but United fail to capitalize. Maguire goes outside, instead of pushing the striker away from the goal. Luke Shaw is still too far away to put off the English striker, and De Gea also does not step out in time

The space between the lines became Burnley’s biggest advantage in the second half. They effectively exploited the space abandoned by the Red Devils, but by themselves allowed none. Burnley seized control of the game and allowed Manchester United just 2 shots in 30 minutes of the second half. The Clarets themselves registered 8 shots in this period and forced De Gea into 2 saves.

Rangnick threw on Ronaldo, Elanga and Lingard in search of a winner. However, the Clarets were dogged and barely allowed any space to United’s forwards. They forced the Red Devils wide and defended incoming crosses and attempts well. United pressed with everything they had but failed to retake their lead.

Burnley vs Manchester United
Burnley’s low-block in the final minutes

Read More:

For the second straight game, Manchester United were let down for not being clinical. The Red Devils had just one goal to show for 45 minutes of complete dominance before individual errors cost them their lead. Not for the first time this season, United looked less comfortable against an opposition that was content to sit back and defend deep.

Rangnick will be wondering what more he can do to affect a change in the fortunes for his side. The German manager has tried rotating players and changing formations but still seems to be struggling to see off games effectively. Individual errors, both in attack and defence are neutralizing a very good performance and tactical set-up.

Follow AD for the Latest Matchday Updates on Manchester United.

Adithya Ravi
Football enthusiast. Stat enthusiast

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