United's facile win rings alarm bells for City

Wayne Rooney celebrating after scoring Manchester United's second goal in the 2-0 win against Burnley yesterday. In only his second league start of the year, he scored for his club for the first time since January.
Wayne Rooney celebrating after scoring Manchester United's second goal in the 2-0 win against Burnley yesterday. In only his second league start of the year, he scored for his club for the first time since January.PHOTO: REUTERS

Even with Ibrahimovic absent, Mourinho's men beat Burnley to keep up top-four chase

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Burnley 0

Manchester United 2

Perhaps it was an indication Wayne Rooney is not finished just yet, perhaps a sign that Anthony Martial can fulfil his vast potential under Jose Mourinho, but this definitely offered proof of Manchester United's resolve and resources.

They stormed fortress Turf Moor, recorded a third straight league win and go into Thursday's derby a solitary point behind Manchester City.

They kicked off 64 hours after their 120-minute epic against Anderlecht, made eight changes and prevailed comfortably.

  • 251

  • Goals scored by Wayne Rooney for Manchester United, the latest coming yesterday against Burnley.

It was a way of illustrating they have the deepest squad in the division. The stand-ins stood up when it mattered, even if United's understudies still bring stardust.

Rooney is their record scorer and, making just his second league start of 2017, delivered his 251st goal for the club, but only his third in the top flight this season.

Martial's was only his fourth in the Premier League, but helped show why he became football's most expensive teenager.

Man United were without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juan Mata and, until they made brief substitute appearances, the rested Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

They missed none, with the absence of their four top scorers, who had contributed a combined 58 goals, mattering little.

Mourinho named a patched-up, worn-down United team, albeit one still acquired at a considerable cost; indeed it became more expensive as the game went on.

Martial's 25th United goal meant they have to pay Monaco a further £8.5 million (S$15.2 million).

It came from a clinical counter-attack, Martial holding off Joey Barton, swapping passes with Ander Herrera and slotting a shot under Tom Heaton. The move had been begun by Rooney, with a clearance from the edge of his own box.

He helped United double their lead. Paul Pogba fed the elusive Martial and, while Heaton blocked his shot, Rooney squeezed the rebound over the line with the aid of a touch from the former United defender Michael Keane.

He had come close in the eighth minute, Heaton's save prompting questions if the goalkeeper, a former United player who never made a first-team appearance at Old Trafford, could stage a repeat of his October heroics when his old team had 37 shots and failed to score in a stalemate.

Burnley have rarely been as toothless and relegation remains a threat for a side who had looked safe.

Their impotence reflected on the excellence of Eric Bailly, a dominant figure in defence. David de Gea did not have to make a save and the second half was uneventful.

That must have suited Mourinho. His side are now unbeaten in the Premier League in six months and 23 games and, even as they lose players, they are gathering momentum. City should consider themselves warned.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'United's facile win rings alarm bells for City'. Print Edition | Subscribe