Manchester United’s lacklustre start to the 2014/15 season continued on Saturday, as they were held to a 0-0 draw by newly promoted Burnley at Turf Moor.
The £59.7 million signing of Argentine Angel Di Maria gave United fans cause for optimism ahead of kick-off, but it was the same old story for Louis van Gaal’s underperforming unit.
The passing was slow, there was no real direction to United’s play and they simply didn’t carve out enough meaningful chances.
Sean Dyche has forged Burnley into a stubborn unit, sure, but these are the kind of games that the Red Devils simply have to be winning in their bid to return to the top of the English game—or at least come close to winning.
Robin van Persie had a glorious chance in the first half courtesy of an incisive ball through by Di Maria, but that’s about as good as it for United, who were subject of deserved criticism after the match—including from a rather sarcastic Gary Lineker:
I think, in hindsight, I should issue an apology. Last week I said that MUFC were ordinary. I was clearly wrong. For that I am truly sorry!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 30, 2014
Former Red Devil David Jones hit the bar from a free kick in Burnley’s best moment early on, but 0-0 rather told the story of a dull afternoon in Lancashire.
The draw means United have just two points on the board from their first three matches, and Van Gaal told BT Sport after the match that he’s disappointed with such a feeble haul—via BBC Sport:
We were the stronger team, certainly in the second half. We created chances but you have to score. That is where we have failed. The progress is there but you have to win. A club like Manchester United has to win. We have two points from nine and that's disappointing.
United face Queens Park Rangers at home in their next match, and while it’s another easy fixture on paper, something has to change before Van Gaal claims the first three points of his tenure.
Luckily, it looks as if Dutch international Daley Blind will be on the way to Old Trafford, as the club agreed a £13.8 million fee with Ajax for his signature on Saturday—per BBC Sport.
The saga surrounding Marcos Rojo's work permit will hopefully be over before the meeting with QPR, and with both the Argentine and Blind at the back, United suddenly look a different animal in defence.
They’ll need a big improvement in the advanced areas, too, but take nothing away from Burnley, whose game plan worked perfectly.
While the Clarets lost their opening two games back in the Premier League, the performances have been encouraging, and manager Dyche reflected on how his team are coming together well in the top flight in his post-match interview—reported via Burnley's official Twitter feed:
SD: "We come away pleased with a point and we are as pleased with the performance. We are growing and learning as a group." #ClaretsLIVE— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) August 30, 2014
SD: "We started hard and fast and with real quality. We also showed real energy and really good mixed football throughout." #ClaretsLIVE— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) August 30, 2014
SD: "I promised the fans when I got here they'd have a team that would give everything and that was on display again today." #ClaretsLIVE— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) August 30, 2014
The Clarets now have their first point on the board, and with clashes against Crystal Palace, Sunderland, West Brom and Leicester City to come, they’ll fancy their chances of adding to that tally very soon.
For Manchester United, though, the misery goes on, and while it’s a bit too early to start likening Van Gaal to the vastly unpopular David Moyes, a change needs to happen quickly.