EPL: Even angel can't save Red Devils

EPL: Even angel can't save Red Devils
Angel di Maria (left) displays moments of class, but he is substituted after 70 minutes.

BURNLEY 0

MAN UNITED 0

The purgatory continues.

Louis van Gaal has promised a bright future, he has insisted that great teams cannot be built in a month, but the process of change is wearying.

Manchester United have now played the teams that finished 12th and 14th in last season's Premier League, and second in last season's Championship.

They still haven't won a game. What will happen in October and November when they finally face the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City?

This process needs to speed up.

Even with the introduction of £60 million ($124m) Angel di Maria, United couldn't break down Burnley.

The Clarets, incidentally, have spent £45m since their formation in 1882.

There were moments of class from the former Real Madrid man, a couple of glorious through-balls, but he was withdrawn after 70 minutes, bruised and exhausted after a robust introduction to English football.

Once again, United started badly.

In an unwieldy 3-1-4-2 formation, they looked nervous and made mistakes with alarming frequency.

After just three minutes, David Jones, once a United player himself, pinged a free-kick off the crossbar with David de Gea beaten.

Sixty seconds later, Jonny Evans' trickling back-pass was intercepted by Lukas Jutkiewizc. This time, de Gea was on his game, racing out to block his shot.

When di Maria played a through-ball to absolutely no one shortly afterwards, United fans began to fear the worse.

But their new signing was just getting warmed up.

After 15 minutes, he split the Burnley defence with an exceptional long pass, more than 40 metres straight to Robin van Persie's chest, the Dutchman's shot saved by another former United player, goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

That was as close as United would come to scoring all afternoon.

But still the mistakes came. De Gea had to race off his line to clear as Danny Ings and Jutkiewicz burst through.

Antonio Valencia gave the ball away on the flank and Burnley nearly scored through Scott Arfield.

Another firebolt from Jones was tipped over the bar by the increasingly employed de Gea.

Arfield could have opened the scoring after 34 minutes when he turned Tyler Blackett inside out on the right, only to see his shot deflected wide.

Burnley were not plucky underdogs with their backs to the wall. They had chances to win this.

United's system was odd.

Wayne Rooney and van Persie got in each other's way up front. With di Maria and Juan Mata both attempting to find room behind them, Darren Fletcher was exposed in the middle, and had to take a booking before half-time when he was left exposed.

Terrified

As for the defence, the less said the better. They looked terrified at all times.

At least the wingbacks were competent, with Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young providing much needed width, but only sporadic incision.

Burnley were excellent and played without pressure.

Sean Dyche has cultivated a determined dressing room and they rarely seemed daunted by their more illustrious opponents.

They kept their shape well. In the centre of defence, Michael Duff and Jason Shackell, with their combined age of 67, were a formidable force and the fullbacks, Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier, held their lines and protected them.

United will feel that they should have had two penalties.

But, when you dive as often as Young, you can be surprised when referees assume the worst every time you hit the ground.

Trippier's clear shove was ignored by referee Chris Foy, as was a possible handball from Ashley Barnes.

Two points from three games are an appalling return for United, especially given the quality of the opposition.

If David Moyes had overseen these matches, he would have been pilloried.

The simple truth is that United are now a very ordinary, very expensive football team.

That may change in time, van Gaal's credentials are beyond doubt, but this isn't working.

United are in trouble

npsports@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 31 in The New Paper.

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