BURNLEY host Manchester United on Saturday night. Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) gives us the lowdown the Premier League contest.
Burnley v Manchester United | Sunday 28th December 2019, 19:45 | BT Sport
Manchester United travel to Burnley on Saturday night as they aim to make it two wins in three days, looking to keep their top four challenge on course.
The fixtures are coming thick and fast in the Premier League, as managers look to balance their squads and second guessing the line-ups becomes a near-impossible task. However, particularly with Burnley, the set up expected at least means breaking down the shape of the game is an easier task, and offers up some interesting angles.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s visitors have struggled to break teams down operating in a low block throughout the campaign, although Boxing Day’s victory over Newcastle showed improvements on this front, as they ran out comfortable 4-1 winners, bouncing back from Matty Longstaff’s early opener.
Coming up against a side averaging just 42.5% possession, the onus will be on the Red Devils to open up Sean Dyche’s side, and despite the easy win against the Magpies, there are still some doubts over their capabilities to break teams down consistently.
Newcastle’s early goal showed them to be susceptible to the counter, and Burnley do possess the ability to target this. There will also be similarities to how Watford set up and effectively kept United quiet in their 2-0 win recently, and it’s down this avenue they will look to target the defence.
Direct play is expected, and the target man Dyche opts to use, whether it is Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes or Jay Rodriguez, will be looking to give the Red Devils’ backline a torrid time.
Although Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are showing increased capabilities to deal with this threat, when the target men move into the channels, targeting the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, their ability to win the first ball increases, and dealing with the flick-ons can become a worry.
United’s high line, coupled with Maguire’s lack of pace, has been targeted at times, and could offer Burnley their best approach for the game. Dwight McNeil has impressed for Burnley, and pitted up against Wan-Bissaka at full back, it makes for an intriguing battle between two of the country’s brightest talents.
Manchester United’s goals came courtesy of a number of mistakes from Newcastle, and their Expected Goals (xG) output of 2.00 from the win doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Anthony Martial’s opener was only given a 3% chance of finding the back of the net, and was aided by Martin Dubravka’s poor keeping at the near post.
The second and fourth came from Newcastle over-playing at the back, and coupled with how easy Watford found it to keep them quiet the weekend before, it could be another night where patience is required for Solskjaer’s side.
Scott McTominay is expected to miss the game with injury, and whilst Paul Pogba should return to the starting line-up after two substitute cameos, replacing the Scot in midfield from a defensive point of view will be a worry for United, who have to enable they don’t get overrun in the central areas.
With rotation also being factored in up front, it could see a deeper role for Pogba, but with Fred’s midfield-relationship with McTominay getting the best out of him in recent weeks, it could leave the Brazilian with more work to do, and does pose some defensive worries for United as a result.
It is an industrious midfield for Burnley who often don’t see much of the ball, and potentially targeting the central areas on the counter, particularly if Pogba is asked to play deeper, may offer them their best hopes going forward.
Patience will be key for United on the night once again, as they will see plenty of the ball, coming up against a rigid, deep lying defence. Burnley have showed in games against Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester City this season an ability to implode when chasing games, however if they can keep Manchester United at bay for long periods of time, much like a number of sides have done to United this season, it could prove a fruitful evening for Dyche’s side.
The betting angles
With the shape of the game expected to see United dominate possession for large periods, it brings into play the passing markets on the Red Devils players.
Everton playing in a back three meant the passes were shared among the three centre backs on Boxing Day, and as a result saw a high of 64 completed.
However, in a back four, and with no McTominay for 45 minutes, Fred took control in United’s midfield, and racked up 115 completed passes, attempting 124. He took similar control against Watford the week previous, completing 77/87 passes, and it highlights the increased importance in United’s side for Fred.
Midfielders often dominate possession against Burnley, with Rodri completing 94 in City’s win, and Kovacic and Jorginho completing 96 and 94 respectively in Chelsea’s victory. Assuming a two-man midfield of Paul Pogba and Fred for United, both immediately take appeal on the passing markets as a result.
Although there is the worry that Pogba may be looking to try and assert more control on the midfield than his counter-part McTominay, Fred to complete 65+ passes stands out at 4/5 (SkyBet). Considering that Pogba may also look to assert more control on the match, he is available at 1/1 (Coral) to attempt 70, and considering that in 26 minutes against Watford he attempted 30, and 67 in the second half against Newcastle, there is scope to push this further, with 75+ (13/8) and 80+ (27/10) both available.
As ever, the team news will have a huge bearing, particularly on the shape United will opt for, so being wary of this on player bets is key. The busy festive period could lead to some surprises, as well as early substitutions, so appreciating that element of risk is also key.
Burnley v Manchester United – Fred to complete 65+ passes (4/5 SkyBet)
Burnley v Manchester United – Paul Pogba to attempt 70+ passes (1/1 Coral)