Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku bagged both goals in a convincing victory over Burnley at Turf Moor to guide Manchester United into the top half.
Manchester United headed into their clash against The Clarets on the back of two consecutive defeats to Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur, but buried the ghost to return to winning ways.
The victory has temporarily alleviated pressure off under-fire manager Jose Mourinho. They immediately started on the front foot and played at a very quick tempo to pressurize Burnley’s defence.
Joe Hart pulled off a string of saves inside the opening 25 minutes but Manchester United broke Burnley’s resistance on 27 minutes to take an early lead. Alexis Sanchez lifted a beautiful delivery to the back post and Romelu Lukaku ruthlessly guided a darting header into the roof of the net.
The Red Devils doubled their advantage on the brink of half-time and Lukaku consolidated a fantastic first half performance with his second goal. Luke Shaw and Sanchez combined majestically on the left channel and Lingard’s blocked strike was presented to Lukaku, who buried the ball from close range into the net.
Paul Pogba could’ve added further gloss to the victory but was unable to convert his spot-kick. Aaron Lennon clumsily hacked down Rashford inside the penalty area, but Hart capped off a class performance to thwart him with a superb save.
United continued their domination during the second half, but had to face the final 20 minutes with 10-men. Rashford reacted naively to a cynical challenge from Phil Bardsley and was dismissed for aggressively crashing his head into the face of the former Manchester United full-back.
Burnley could’ve escaped from the relegation zone with a point against Manchester United, but instead remain in 19th place on just one point. Manchester United climb into 10th place and move to within four points of the top four.
Manchester United produced their best performance this season and immediately set the tone for an attacking performance by playing at a quick tempo from the first whistle. They’ve been caught out on numerous occasions when building from the back and De Gea opted for a more direct approach when distributing the ball.
Jesse Lingard played between the lines and was a menace for Burnley and Luke Shaw added an offensive threat down the left channel with his link up play with Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has struggled to launch his career at Old Trafford, but he delivered a promising display, and was involved in the build-up play for both goals.
Burnley set-up pragmatically and sat players behind the ball to attempt to prevent United from breaking into the final third. However, United squeezed the space available on the pitch by playing a high defensive line and The Clarets resorted to playing long balls into forward Chris Wood.
They began to attempt to break down the channels due to Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw taking up more advanced roles. However, Marouanne Fellaini regularly slotted into the defence to create a three-man defence and enabled Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof to apply width across the defensive line.
Lukaku has consistently been stranded recovering the ball in wide positions, but he was seemingly instructed to play as a target man and to position himself in central areas. Lingard and Sanchez played as inverted wingers and supported Lukaku on the counter-attack. Mourinho’s decision to play them in more central areas enabled Valencia and Shaw to receive the ball with overlapping runs.