Manchester United end year with taste of Claret

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Manchester United have had little to cheer in a disappointing second half of 2021, but they rounded off the calendar year with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Burnley. The hosts scored all of their goals in the first half to maintain their unbeaten record under Ralf Rangnick and jump above Tottenham into sixth place in the Premier League.

A frantic opening saw Chris Wood miss a chance at one end before Cristiano Ronaldo uncharacteristically blazed a sitter over the bar at the other. United would not waste their next chance though as Scott McTominay delightfully curled into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to hand his side a ninth minute lead.

Burnley, playing their first game in three weeks after a hat-trick of postponements, were rusty, whereas the hosts were rampant. An own goal doubled the lead when Jadon Sancho’s weaving run ended in a shot deflecting home off Ben Mee before Ronaldo made it 3-0, pouncing on a rebound after McTominay’s effort had been superbly saved.

Aaron Lennon reduced the advantage before the break, finding the far corner from the edge of the box when David de Gea should have done better. The ‘Clarets’ were more settled after the break, enjoying a greater share of the possession without creating too many openings. United meanwhile were still hungry for more and McTominay saw another terrific long range effort saved by Wayne Hennessey.

The Welsh shot-stopper was called into action once more, sensationally denying Edinson Cavani from close-range, with the ball rebounding off his face. At the other end, Mee and James Tarkowski both came close to halving the deficit, but neither could direct their headers on target as the Sean Dyche’s side sunk to a ninth away league game without a win. The ‘Red Devils’ were able to control the game in the closing stages to see out a win that reduces their deficit to fourth-placed Arsenal to four points, while retaining a game in hand.

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