Martial strike seals victory at Burnley
Manchester United secured three points from a tight affair at Burnley, thanks to Anthony Martial's winner, as Jose Mourinho's men maintained our good form in 2018 with another victory and clean sheet.
Despite a positive opening, the Reds endured a largely unproductive first half as the opening 45 minutes yielded precious few efforts on goal for either side. Paul Pogba was at the heart of most of anything positive and hooked a volley over the top from an Ashley Young pass when offered a rare sight of Nick Pope's goal.
The Clarets looked capable of producing moments of danger from set-pieces with James Tarkowski left worryingly clear to waste a headed chance from a free-kick and Ben Mee also meeting a corner with no real reward.
Romelu Lukaku did well when involved, even if he was having to drop deep, but Pope remained untroubled for the entire half. Young supplied some class when a neat trick allowed him to get past Johann Berg Gudmundsson and ex-Red Phil Bardsley, only to bend his attempt the wrong side of the far post.
Martial fired well wide after a link-up with Pogba in stoppage time to suggest better would follow the break from United. Indeed, that was case as Jose's teamtalk had the desired impact.
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Nine minutes into the second half, the decisive moment arrived. Lukaku showed great perseverance in winning the ball and advancing forward to spot Martial in space with an inviting pass. Martial deceived Pope with a clinical finish that crashed home off the underside of the bar in front of the delighted travelling fans.
Burnley's response was a good one, with Gudmundsson hitting the top of the bar from a free-kick in a promising position just outside the box. With the Clarets fans optimistically appealing for every decision, including a shout for handball by Chris Smalling when it appeared to hit his chest, it was never going to be an easy ride for the Reds.
David De Gea helped over a Mee header and a dangerous centre by Gudmundsson clipped off Smalling with the visitors at full stretch. United had chances to add a second but, too often, shots were delayed by the likes of Lukaku, Pogba and Jesse Lingard and desperate blocks were made.
Ashley Barnes and substitute Sam Vokes nodded headers off target but Pope was the busier of the keepers late on, with a one-handed stop to deny Martial a second. In five minutes of stoppage time, Vokes sent another effort over the bar as the Reds closed the game out.
THE LINE-UPS AND MATCH STATS
United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Young; Matic, Pogba; Mata (Fellaini 72), Lingard (Rashford 80), Martial (Herrera 90), Lukaku.
Subs not used: Romero, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay.
Booked: Pogba, Matic, Valencia.
Burnley: Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Cork, Hendrick (Vokes 82), Defour, Arfield (Nkoudou 81); Barnes (Wells 89).
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Lowton, Westwood, Long.
Booked: Mee, Bardsley, Defour.
JONES HAILS REDS' CHARACTER
“It was certainly a battle and that's what you get when you come to Turf Moor - it is about character and we showed that in abundance today. You have seen teams come here all season and drop points, we had to bide our time and when we got our chance thankfully Martial took it. We have some fantastic talent in the squad and we need everybody, especially going into a busy period.”
JOSE PLEASED WITH HARD-FOUGHT WIN
The boss was delighted the Reds were able to grind out a vital away victory at Burnley. He told MUTV:
“It's always difficult here. If we score a second goal then we are in control but when they are alive, they are alive and they go until the end. They are a brave, physical team with a direct approach and pressing a lot around the box is really difficult to play against. If you don't score you are in trouble, they go direct, they are consistent in their approach, it's really difficult.”
WHAT'S NEXT FOR UNITED?
United are in Emirates FA Cup fourth-round action at Yeovil Town on Friday night, which is also Mourinho's birthday and his 100th game in charge of the Reds.