Red Devils fire blanks

Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton saving from Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their match at Old Trafford. Poor finishing and indiscipline are becoming bigger problems for United than injuries.
Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton saving from Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their match at Old Trafford. Poor finishing and indiscipline are becoming bigger problems for United than injuries.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ten-man Man United still dominate, but just could not find a way past obdurate Burnley

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester United 0

Burnley 0

It is only two weeks since Jose Mourinho presented himself as a reformed character and noted Manchester United's excellent disciplinary record.

How quickly times change. Now the Portuguese is encountering trouble with the authorities and the opposition alike.

He was sent to the stands and Ander Herrera was sent off on a day of frustration for United yesterday.

They battered Burnley, but could not find a breakthrough. United went a third consecutive league game without scoring. The Clarets, aided by outstanding goalkeeping and the woodwork, secured a first away point of the season.

Besides the damage to United's footballing fortunes, the consequences could be considerable. Mourinho already faces an FA charge for comments made about Anthony Taylor, the referee for the 0-0 draw with Liverpool, and can expect another soon.

His side had appealed in vain for a penalty when the Burnley substitute Jon Flanagan waved an arm at Matteo Darmian.

Mourinho received his marching orders at the interval and spent the opening period of the second half searching for a seat. He tried three before settling for a spot among the VIPs.

What he witnessed there may not make for pleasant viewing. Herrera's two bookings both came for fouls on Dean Marney. He slipped for the second, adding an element of misfortune, but his apology was not enough to save him.

Referee Mark Clattenburg had fewer friends at Old Trafford after denying United a penalty when Ashley Barnes caught Darmian.

That came amid incessant attacking from United, resolute defending from Burnley and great goalkeeping from Tom Heaton.

The England international began his heroics early on, coming out to block when Juan Mata played a slide-rule pass and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sprinted on to it but Heaton blocked his shot.

It was the start of something special. The menacing Mata tested Heaton with a snap shot. When Herrera crossed and Jesse Lingard headed towards the top corner, he clawed it away. When Paul Pogba let fly, he pushed the Frenchman's shot over the bar. When Ibrahimovic cut the ball back for Mata, Heaton denied the Spaniard as well.

Heaton began his career at United but never played for their first team. The goalkeeper belatedly showed his first club what he can do.

And when Heaton was beaten, the woodwork came to Burnley's rescue. Mata hit the post. Ibrahimovic's deflected header came back off the bar. Somehow, the ball stayed out. Daley Blind and Luke Shaw tried their luck. The wasteful Ibrahimovic missed a last-minute sitter.

It was not United's day. Mourinho sent for Wayne Rooney with 17 minutes remaining. Underlining his lowly status, the captain had begun on a bench without any defenders as Antonio Valencia underwent surgery on a broken arm.

But it soon transpired that injury problems are the least of United's worries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Red Devils fire blanks'. Print Edition | Subscribe