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Blog - The Match

Corrigan: Barca frustrated by Getafe

La Liga
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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Three Points: Burnley vs. Manchester United

Here are three quick thoughts from Manchester United's 0-0 draw with Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday.

1. Van Gaal remains winless

Heaven, and 60 million pounds, sent them an Angel, but Manchester United continue to creak through the motions of transition under Louis van Gaal. Angel Di Maria lasted 70 minutes as Burnley held him and his new teammates at bay.

They had late penalty claims for Ashley Barnes' handball from Ashley Young's shot, but United laboured. At least a first clean sheet was claimed -- small steps, indeed.

Having someone to run with the ball at pace was a novelty in United's slow-motion season so far. Di Maria's first run, in the fifth minute, ended in a pass Wayne Rooney was never going to reach. His next sortie saw the Argentine resort to a long ball, as did his next. United's distinct lack of zip does not supply the movement and angles he would have been used to at Real Madrid.

Angel Di Maria showed much promise in his Manchester United debut, but his efforts were ultimately fruitless.

The third incursion was better, his pass making Robin van Persie force a fine save from Burnley keeper Tom Heaton. Then, a fine first-time pass put Juan Mata in position to score, yet the Spaniard fell over the ball, a reminder that few of United's recent expensive signings have made a positive impact, with Mata approaching the most ill-fitting and disappointing of all. A later Mata shank wide was another reminder.

There is such impatience to United's play. They never sought to keep the ball down and build passing moves. They rush to get the ball forward, and there is very little movement once it gets there.

Rooney and Van Persie, in their third season together, might be good friends off the field but usually play like strangers as soon as they cross the white line together. Rooney in particular looked shoddy of touch. In a week when he was named his country's captain, this was no performance to soothe doubters.

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Danny Welbeck replacing Van Persie was something of a surprise, and Rooney blew his chance to prove Van Gaal right when he missed a headed chance soon after his England colleague's arrival.

Di Maria had been too far off the front to properly force the issue, although it was his running that presented the greatest threat. A 64th-minute dart into Burnley's box led to Van Persie having an effort cleared off the line by Dean Marney.

Having taken a slight knock, Di Maria was subbed off. Anderson, a hugely guilty party in United's midweek Milton Keynes massacre, replaced him. Late on, as Burnley invited them on, United could not locate a first victory for Van Gaal.

2. Still struggling with the system

Before the game, Sir Alex Ferguson, this week targeted for letting United's squad fall into decay, walked through a crowd of well-wishers into Turf Moor's reception. Ferguson, a rictus grin on his face, dished out handshakes to all comers, still an idol to all those who sought his hand. He will not be hiding away.

Previously, Ferguson was the man who inspired United to great things, now the club are looking to an Angel and placing Blind faith. Daley Blind's morning purchase means Van Gaal is being fully backed in the market, even before he sweeps out the deadwood.

Anderson's presence on the bench reminded of the paucity of midfield options available, as long-term absentee Michael Carrick sat in the stands with his children and Ander Herrera recovers from an ankle problem.

With Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera unfit, it was left to Darren Fletcher to patrol Manchester United's midfield.

When such players are available, then perhaps United's midfield might finally have a complete look about it, for the first time since Ferguson's 2008 European champion team. Darren Fletcher, flanked by Di Maria and Mata, was overworked, and having been booked for a foul on Danny Ings, was living on his nerves.

Defence, where reinforcements have not been so forthcoming, is a greater problem, and especially when a new system is being bedded in. Jonny Evans, so used to being partnered by the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, is finding three a crowd. After a personal crisis at Milton Keynes, he again looked uncertain. This time to the right of the three, rather than central, he looked unsure of himself, one early error almost replicating the two catastrophes he committed at stadium:mk.

With Marcos Rojo mired in red tape and Luke Shaw injured, Van Gaal might argue he is not able to bed in his new additions. However, in Evans -- and Phil Jones, who was solid yet still accident-prone -- United do not have the commanding, controlling player to make their system work properly.

3. Sean's show

Sean Dyche, an upright and confident figure, is a manager going places. The son of a management consultant, he carries himself with professionalism, and promotion last season won him a considerable cachet augmented by a sardonic sense of humour that appeals to those in the media.

Burnley have already smashed through their glass ceiling in being in the Premier League. Relegation is embraced as a distinct possibility, as Dyche has been able to invest very little in recruitment.

- Van Gaal: Di Maria injury not serious
- Van Gaal blames attack
- Payne: Angel starts but miracle still needed

A sad state of affairs considering that Burnley, before the abolition of the maximum wage in 1961, were a powerhouse of English football. Now, they are a provincial concern who play with pride, and look like putting up a far better fist than in their previous season in the Premier League -- the 2009-10 campaign.

Captain Jason Shackell was outstanding at the back, never looking fazed by the regal presence of Van Persie or Rooney, while former United keeper Heaton made a fine save from the Dutch striker when Di Maria had produced his sterling pass. David Jones, released by Ferguson as a youngster, forced an even better save from David de Gea for the best action of the first half. Scott Arfield, scorer of a fine strike against Chelsea a fortnight ago, banjaxed Tyler Blackett in the early stages. Burnley deserved their point.

Having got Chelsea and United out of the way, Burnley's fixture list at Turf Moor, where form will be key to survival, takes on an easier look.

John Brewin

Based in London, from where he covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. He reported from the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and was formerly a senior editor of ESPNsoccernet.

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