Burnley deserved more in United clash
Burnley collected their first point of the Premier League season with a hugely encouraging performance in a 0-0 home draw with Manchester United.
It wasn't the most entertaining of goalless games, but that won't matter to Sean Dyche and his Clarets team after they more than matched Louis van Gaal's expensively assembled strugglers.
United had three or four big penalty shouts, but they haven't gotten soft calls since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement and none of them were certainties, referee Chris Foy giving Burnley the benefit of the doubt on each occasion. It was a sign of United's growing desperation how furiously they appealed for a spot kick late in the match after Ashley Barnes blocked a shot from close range with his chest, though it looked to ricochet onto his arm.
On a day when British transfer record breaker Angel di Maria made his United debut, he was upstaged by an altogether less heralded midfielder. David Jones was a Manchester United trainee as a youngster but never made a league appearance for the Red Devils. Since leaving Old Trafford in 2007, he has carved out a fairly successful if unglamorous career, mostly in England's second tier, but his performance Saturday will live long in the memory.
Jones hit the bar from a free kick in the third minute, leaving David de Gea completely beaten, and tested the Spanish goalkeeper with a swirling volley later on. But it was Jones' tireless energy and classy passing that really caught the eye, and it was no surprise for him to get the man of the match award. He had dominated a midfield featuring more than 100 million pounds worth of talent, and his midfield partner Dean Marney was similarly excellent.
Burnley were also brilliant at the back, restricting United to only one clear sight of goal from open play, when Di Maria found Robin van Persie with a diagonal searching ball. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton rushed out to make a smart stop, and he was otherwise untested.
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Veteran defender Michael Duff, 36, was written off by some of his own supporters before a ball had been kicked, but he continues to roll back the years and was better than ever on Saturday. Alongside him, Jason Shackell put a slow start to the season behind him with a commanding display, the highlight of which was a superb double defensive stop when United seemed destined to score.
Goals remain a slight concern for the Clarets, with only one scored in their four fixtures this season (against Chelsea). Lukas Jutkiewicz and Danny Ings have shown only flashes of forming a partnership, but Ings in particular is a confident player. It should take only one to go in for him to get going.
Burnley may be bottom of the league going into the international break, but they will be heartened by their results. Losing 3-1 to Chelsea looks like no disgrace after the Blues eviscerated Everton 6-3 at Goodison Park this weekend while a narrow 1-0 defeat at Swansea looks creditable after the Swans tore West Brom apart in a 3-0 victory on Saturday.
Attention now turns to the transfer window closing on Monday. Burnley look set to complete the signing of Hull City winger George Boyd in a 3 million pound deal. Boyd will add flair and creativity to a sometimes unimaginative Burnley attack and will compete with Matt Taylor for the left wing spot on the team should the deal go through as expected.
Burnley will still need two or three new additions to give Dyche the best possible chance of keeping the Clarets in the Premier League, with a defender and a midfielder necessities if Burnley are to have even a small amount of specialist cover in those two key positions.
One point from the first three games might not be the best possible start for Burnley, but they have coped admirably against three teams that will finish in the top half of the Premier League.
Upcoming fixtures against sides likely to be in the relegation mini-league -- playing Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Brom in September -- will give more of an indication of Burnley's chances this season.