Phil Bardsley: The Burnley defender is out with a back injury. He wanted to play, according to his manager Sean Dyche, but the Burnley manager didn’t want to risk him doing a Rashford and making things worse.
Not long now: Out march the teams, with the players of Manchester United wearing red shirts, white shorts and black socks. Burnley’s wear light blue shirts, shorts and socks, perhaps in the hope it will lend the occasion a derby feel and help them play like Manchester City.
A win for Manchester United … would move them within three points of Chelsea in the battle for fourth place, following the failure of Frank Lampard’s side to see off 10-man Arsenal last night.
Into the dragon’s den: This is not something I’ve noticed before – Manchester United training tops festooned with a dragon motif to celebrate the 2020 Chinese New Year. A quick Google reveals they were debuted ahead of their match against Norwich City earlier this month. Weirdly, 2020 is the Year of the Rat, but I suppose a giant rodent motif wouldn’t look quite as … em, fetching.
An email: “Here in the U.S. there is a brand new commercial on NBC Sports promoting their coverage of the Premier League in which the voice over man declares ‘Manchester United’s resurgence has them climbing back up the table;,” writes JR in Illinois. “For real. What a world we live in, eh?” Resurgence, eh? Nurse! The screens!
Growing apathy at Old Trafford? It may just be the particular echo chamber of Twitter that I inhabit, but I couldn’t help but notice a few Manchester United-supporting folk mention today that they either weren’t bother going to tonight’s game, or knew other fans who couldn’t be bothered to go. If the sight of empty seats at Old Trafford becomes a regular one, the Glazers and Ed Woodward would not be best pleased, even if they are almost entirely to blame for this apparent apathy.
Those teams …
The Phil Jones klaxon has been sounded loud and clear over Old Trafford, with this match perhaps coming a little too soon for Eric Bailly, who has been out all season with a knee injury. Mason Greenwood starts on the bench, with Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata getting the nod ahead of him. Luke Shaw also drops to the bench.
Sean Dyche makes one change to the Burnley side that beat Leicester at the weekend. Matthew Lowton is in for Phil Bardsley, who is not in the match-day squad.
Manchester United v Burnley line-ups
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Jones, Maguire, Williams, Fred, Matic, Andreas Pereira, Mata, James, Martial.
Subs: Bailly, Lingard, Dalot, Romero, Shaw, Greenwood, Gomes.
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Cork, Westwood, McNeil, Wood, Rodriguez.
Subs: Brady, Hart, Pieters, Lennon, Vydra, Long, Goodridge.
Referee: Jonathan Moss (County Durham)
Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba latest …
Manchester United target Bruno Fernandes will not still be at Sporting Lisbon after the summer and Paul Pogba may decide to leave Old Trafford, according to the players’ agents.
Portugal international Fernandes is a United target this month, although reports suggest the clubs cannot agree a fee. Jorge Mendes, who is helping to broker the midfielder’s exit, confirmed that Fernandes will leave Sporting this summer, if not this month.
“If he will not leave now he will leave for sure in the summer because Sporting, they have spoken already with other clubs and something will happen,” Mendes told Sky Sports News. “I’m not sure if [it will happen] now or the end of the season.”
Speculation over Pogba’s future at United rumbles on, with his agent Mino Raiola refusing to rule out a summer move for the France midfielder.
“I expect my players to be happy and I expect the clubs to be happy,” he said. “That is my work. I do not want to work in front of what might be happening in the summer. For now he needs to be getting fit and then it is my job to get both parties, if possible, happy. If one of those parties is not happy then there are other ways to resolve that.
“But that is not today the way to talk or to speculate. I don’t say anything for sure. There’s only one thing for sure in life and that is that one day you die. A lot of people did not think he would have gone back to Manchester United, people tend to forget that, people tend to imagine that Manchester United was the only club he could have signed for.
“That was not the case. He chose Manchester United. Maybe [Sir Alex] Ferguson did not like that but he chose Manchester United.”
Early team news …
Having been sent on to play against Wolves last week despite suffering from a back injury that he promptly made worse, Marcus Rashford is expected to be out for up to three months, while Victor Lindelof is also a doubt after being sent home early from training by club medical staff yesterday. With Marcos Rojo and Axel Tuanzebe also injured, Eric Bailly or Phil Jones could start in the heart of Manchester United’s defence. Midfielders Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay also remain sidelined.
Shaun Dyche is comparatively lucky and has an almost fully fit squad to choose from. He will, however, be without Ashley Barnes, who is recovering from a hernia operation, but Icelandic winger Johann Berg Gudmondsson could feature after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Premier League: Manchester United v Burnley
While Burnley eased the pressure on themselves with a much-needed win over Leicester at the weekend, Manchester United had no such luck. While there was no shame in only going down 2-0 to Liverpool, the gaping chasm in class between the two sides could scarcely have been more apparent and they Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men could easily have lost by five or six.
While Manchester United fans are desperate for Ole to succeed, one suspects that anything less than a win against their visitors from Turf Moor could result in their patience wearing thin. Their anger at the club’s stagnation in the face of massive financial outlay is currently being vented at the club’s owners, the Glazers, and their executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who are ultimately responsible for the club’s disastrous transfer policy over the past five or six seasons.
It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that if on-field results don’t improve, it is a certain over-promoted Norwegian who will be scapegoated, as his employers are unlikely to be willing to shoulder any blame – of which there is plenty to go around – for the club’s current woes. Kick-off tonight is at the ungodly hour of 8.15pm (GMT), but stay tuned for team news and build-up in the meantime.