Things we learned from Manchester United 0, Burnley 0

Things we learned from Burnley's goal-less draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday

Monday, 31st October 2016, 2:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:23 pm
Tom Heaton saves from Jesse Lingard
Tom Heaton saves from Jesse Lingard

Is there a Premier League keeper in better form than Tom Heaton?

Never mind whether Tom Heaton is currently the form England keeper, is he outperforming some of the league's stellar talent as well?

The Burnley Express declared Harry Thomson as "a god in a green jersey" after his heroics against Napoli in the European Fairs Cup in 1967.

And while Clarets skipper Heaton wore more of a luminous yellow jersey at Old Trafford, his performance must surely be in that top bracket - as good a goalkeeping display as I've seen in 22 years reporting on the club.

Compared to Gordon Banks a fortnight ago, and hailed for "one of the best saves in Premier League history" by one of the best keepers in Premier League history this weekend.

He made a seasonal high 11 saves, some of which beggared belief, particularly the Peter Schmeichel-like stop to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic, that the Great Dane himself was purring about afterwards on twitter.

Going into the game at his former club, Heaton topped the league in saves made, and he pushed his statistics significantly northwards after a remarkable display against Manchester United.

A couple of weeks ago, The Times' headline after United's draw at Anfield was 'Liverpool 0, De Gea 0'.

The Spaniard made arguably world-class stops from Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho.

United legend Paddy Crerand said after Saturday's game that it was United 0, Tom Heaton 0.

And while that didn't take into account the captain's teammates putting their bodies on the line and defending as if their lives depended on it - with Ben Mee and another former Red Michael Keane outstanding - it was a fairly accurate summary.

Heaton was literally unbeatable. And while his save from Charlie Austin at Southampton arguably trumped that from Ibrahimovic, his overall performance has to be his finest in a Burnley shirt. He had to have high concentration levels last season as he was well protected by his teammates, and only called into action on occasion.

This season, he is the busiest keeper in the Premier League, and showing his quality.

Sean Dyche often refers to his "safe hands". He is solid, relable, efficient - what every keeper aspires to.

You can count Heaton's errors in over three years at the club on one hand.

But he has been simply spectacular this season, in the form of his life, and he must be pushing Joe Hart hard for a starting slot, never mind rivaling Fraser Forster for the back up berth with the Three Lions squad.

Burnley finally get benefit of the doubt from the officials

The defensive display at United wasn't a one-off, as Liverpool can attest - only Burnley and United have shut Jurgen Klopp's side out - and the Clarets should have had another clean sheet at home to Arsenal.

That day they were denied by a refereeing error, or two or three, depending on your point of view.

And there was much gnashing of teeth at Old Trafford at Mark Clattenburg's performance.

From a Burnley perspective, it was refreshing to see a strong referee, in the face of constant appeals and dissent.

Jose Mourinho was banished to the stand at half-time for complaining about a penalty shout not given when Matteo Darmian went theatrically to ground under minimal, if any, contact from substitute Jon Flanagan.

It was debatable whether Darmian was off-side at any rate, but the Italian certainly exaggerated his fall, and that cost him as much as anything else.

Clattenburg got that spot on, as he did in the second half when Ashley Barnes won the ball cleanly from Darmian, albeit before upending the right back with his follow-through.

Every time the ball went in the box in the second half, the Stratford End screamed 'handball', and were roundly mocked by the travelling fans, who made more noise despite being vastly outnumbered.

If only Mourinho could show as much class as Sean Dyche when decisions go against him. While he went into the Burnley dressing room afterwards to congratulate them, his behaviour on the touchline remains child-like, spitting his dummy out.

While Dyche calmy debates decisions after a game, Mourinho's play acting does neither himself or his players any favours.

Burnley enjoy facing the big sides

Already this season, Burnley have beaten Liverpool and Everton, taken a point from Manchester United, and should have had another against Arsenal.

Two seasons ago, they took four points off champions Manchester City, and drew with United, Spurs and Chelsea.

In 2009/10, they beat United and Everton, and drew at City, and the season before, of course, they knocked Chelsea and Arsenal out of the League Cup and beat Spurs in the semi-final second leg.

It is a remarkable sequence of results.

However, in their first season in the Premier League, they struggled to take points against sides in and around them, with Portsmouth, Wigan, Wolves and, more painfully, Blackburn doing the double over them.

Beating Wigan in either game would have kept Burnley up, and relegated the Latics.

Last time out, the Clarets beat QPR at home, Hull home and away, and took four points off Aston Villa, but as regards the rest of the bottom half of the table, they took one from WBA, one from Sunderland, two from Newcastle, one from Leicester, and none from either West Ham or Everton.

Burnley's next two games are against Crystal Palace and West Brom, and while both sides are established at this level, with far greater resources, results against those sides would go a long way towards retaining Premier League status.