Two sensational late goals inside five frantic minutes salvaged a point for Manchester United against Burnley but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning run as caretaker boss came to an end.
The Reds were staring defeat in the face and Solskjaer’s first loss of his reign with three minutes of normal time to go after Burnley had stunned the home fans with goals from Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood in the second half. But a spirited finale from the Reds led tp Paul Pogba scoring from the spot before Victor Lindelof snatched a point two minutes into time added on.
After the delights of the Emirates FA Cup win at Arsenal, this was always going to pose a different challenge to the Reds.
Solskjaer’s spying mission last Saturday at the Etihad to watch the Clarets play Manchester City in the cup won’t have provided him with much info with Turf Moor boss Sean Dyche naming only four starters from the much-changed knockout XI who were thumped 5-0 by City.
He won’t have been taken in by that surrender and the way Burnley started was more the side who have picked up in the Premier League following a dreadful start to the season that limped on into early winter. But they’ve improved with three wins and a draw in their last four league games. And you could see why, with the visitors posing United early problems.
The slick, lively and dangerous Reds of the Solskjaer era was missing. However, the Norwegian has consistently emphasised the importance of an early goal and, despite a slow start, United almost got it. In the ninth minute, the Reds broke from the halfway line with Marcus Rashford on the ball. Old Trafford was up and on its feet as the in-form striker raced away.
He slipped the ball to Romelu Lukaku and was superbly handed a chance on a plate by the Belgian. The Stretford End rose and was ready to salute Rashford’s sixth goal under Solskjaer but, despite the room he had, the forward side-footed his golden chance well wide.
Burnley were not troubling David De Gea but were still enjoying taking the game to United, pressing high up at the pitch at every opportunity.
Paul Pogba did poke the ball past former United man Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal after 38 minutes but was rightly judged to be offside. However, United at least started to look like our recent selves again with Juan Mata then following up with a low drive that went close.
The Reds began the second half testing Heaton with a couple of drives from Mata and Pogba but they were meat and drink for the ex-United Academy product. Just when you thought United might be winding up for an onslaught, the shock hit us as Burnley pounced to take the lead in the 51st minute.
Phil Jones played a ball out of defence to Andreas Pereira who seemed caught out by the pass and was robbed instantly by Jack Cork. He then fed Barnes, who slammed the ball past De Gea before Lindelof could rescue the situation with a tackle.
It was the first time United had gone behind in the Solskjaer reign. The home support certainly accepted the gauntlet thrown by the visitors as they got behind the Reds in ever-increasing decibels. The noise levels were raised when the crowd appealed for a handball against Ashley Westwood but referee Jonathan Moss was having none of it.
With Jesse Lingard on for Pereira, United went into attack mode and almost drew level after 66 minutes. A cross from Ashley Young was met with a volley from close range by Lukaku but Heaton pulled off a remarkable acrobatic save to keep the shot out.
It was Lukaku’s last piece of action as he was soon replaced by Alexis Sanchez.
Burnley were getting heads, feet and anything in the way as they read every ball into the box and repelled United’s efforts which had become so rushed and ragged that Solskjaer was forced to indicate to his side that they needed to calm down and show some composure. While United struggled, Burnley showed how simple it was as they went into a stunning 2-0 lead.
After United pressure, Dyche’s side went forward and Westwood dinked a ball onto the head of Wood, who glanced easily past De Gea, while the defenders waited for an offside flag that never came.
United thought we’d won a potential way back into the match two minutes after Burnley’s second, when referee Moss pointed to the spot after Ben Mee had blocked Rashford’s run. However, as Burnley players protested the offence was outside of the box, Moss changed his mind and gave a free-kick.
Four minutes later, the official was pointing to the spot again and this time there was no dispute as Jeff Hendrick pulled back Lingard. Pogba smashed the penalty into the roof of the net to set up a grandstand finale.
Heaton looked like he was going to be the hero of the night as he pulled off another great save to deny Pogba a leveller but United wouldn’t be kept out and, after the goalkeeper miraculously saved an Alexis effort ,Lindelof followed up with an unstoppable close range finish to make it 2-2 during the five minutes of stoppage time.
It was an electrifying conclusion but the Reds ran out of time as United swarmed forward searching for the winner.
United: De Gea, Young (C), Lindelof, Jones, Shaw, Matic, Pogba, A. Pereira (Lingard 62), Mata, Rashford, Lukaku (Alexis 67).
Subs not used: Romero, Dalot, Smalling, Fred, Herrera.
Scorers: Pogba 87 (pen) Lindelof 90+2..
Burnley: Heaton (C), Taylor, Cork, Tarkowski, Mee, Barnes, Wood, Hendrick, Westwood, Bardsley, McNeil (Gudmundsson 77)
Subs not used: Hart, Vokes, Gibson, Ward, Vydra, Benson
Scorers: Barnes 51, Wood 81
Bookings: Barnes, Taylor, Cork.