Bunley 1, Manchester United 1: Chris Boden's thoughts on a riveting response from the Clarets

Sean Dyche described it as "only a point but a positive point."

By Chris Boden
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 9:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 9:58 am

But if you heard the Turf Moor crowd at full time, you would have thought the Clarets had turned back the clock and beaten Manchester United, as they famously did in their first Premier League home game back in 2009.

The fans had this famous old ground rocking that night, as Robbie Blake’s thunderous volley, and Brian Jensen’s penalty save from Michael Carrick, saw off the champions, and ultimately cost Sir Alex Ferguson’s men the title.

Fittingly, Sir Alex was back in town for Burnley’s 5,000th league game - joining fellow Founder Members Preston North End as the only clubs to achieve the feat.

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Jay Rodriguez levels against Manchester United

And, with a proud personal milestone of his own, Jay Rodriguez sent the Clarets supporters home with a smile, his 100th career league goal earning an unlikely draw, with Burnley’s first home goal against United since that Blake volley.

The ground didn’t quite shake as it did almost 13 years ago, but the roar that greeted Mike Dean’s final whistle was a moment to savour, as the synergy between the fans and the team helped earn a morale-boosting result.

Burnley were very much second best in a first half where United took the lead through Paul Pogba, and could have had two more but for VAR to overturn Raphael Varane’s header for a barge from an offside Harry Maguire on Rodriguez, and a Pogba foul on Erik Pieters before Josh Brownhill put through his own goal.

However, the crowd, rather than show any frustration at half-time, gave the players great encouragement as they left the pitch, as Dyche acknowledged: “The fans played their part at half-time and stayed behind the players, and the players gave a reaction.

“The second half was pleasing and much more like we want to be like.”

That was an understatement.

It was like chalk and cheese, as a somewhat meek Burnley turned up the intensity from the kick-off.

They refused to let United settle on the ball, not giving Pogba and Bruno Fernandes time to dictate matters, and chances were few and far between for the visitors as a result, with Nick Pope not overly stretched again on a night when he celebrated the 200th league appearance of his career.

With the crowd roaring them on, they rattled into tackles and attacked with the sort of purpose which had been missing against Watford.

They crafted a quite brilliant equaliser, with new signing Wout Weghorst displaying all his quality, showing brilliant feet to sell Maguire and then play the sort of reverse pass which United great Rio Ferdinand admitted: "It’s a great piece of skill, this pass is sublime, if Kevin de Bruyne does tha, we’ll all be going crazy."

But Rodriguez still had it all to do, and showed all his experience and know how to get his body in front of Maguire, and then the composure to sit David De Gea down and pick his spot.

It was his first Premier League goal since February 13th last year at Crystal Palace, but showed exactly what he is all about - such a gifted technical footballer will relish playing alongside Weghorst, who has the intelligence and quality to feed off.

He may not have had the aerial dominance you would expect of Chris Wood, winning only one of seven headers he competed for, but his link up play is superior - completing four from four dribbles, while his work rate was also excellent, winning five of 11 tackles and making seven ball recoveries.

A goal from the big man can't be far away - and he would have had one but for a quite brilliant stop from De Gea, who got down to shovel his half volley from almost behind him, round the post.

Erik Pieters, who again gave his heart and soul for the cause, then sent a thumping volley high and wide, beforr Weghorst found the side-netting after a jinking run from Dwight McNeil.

The lift the goal gave the side inevitably waned, but Burnley showed the defensive solidity that was missing in the first half, with skipper Ben Mee typically dependable, while James Tarkowski - looking at Maguire at the other end - must wonder what exactly he has done to find himself so far down the pecking order in the England set up.

Newcastle's win over Everton wasn't ideal, but even if the Magpies' new-found wealth takes them out of trouble, there are other sides the Clarets can target yet to drag into the relegation battle, including the Toffees, Leeds and Brentford.

But Burnley have to replicate the all-round display of the second half against United.

If you had said the Clarets would earn three points from Arsenal away, Watford and United at home, conceding only once, most would imagine you had beaten Watford.

Draws won't keep you up, and wins remain elusive, but the Clarets are now unbeaten in six Premier League games at Turf Moor, drawing five, and, indeed, have only lost twice in front of their own supporters this term, on the opening day against Brighton, and to a Martin Odegaard free kick for Arsenal.

These are small signs, but if Burnley are to go down, if they go down fighting as they did in that riveting second half against United, at least they will do so with pride intact and the fans onside.

Things don't get any easier, with Liverpool next up on Sunday,but having got back to doing the basics well at the Emirates, Burnley set the standard against the Red Devils, and can't afford to dip below that to give themselves a chance.