Stephen Cummings: Encouraging signs from draw with Manchester United

Stephen Cummings: Encouraging signs from draw with Manchester United

Stephen Cummings: Encouraging signs from draw with Manchester United

First published in Sport

So then, Burnley 0 Manchester United 0: not too shabby for a “minor club” who “play a lot of long balls.”

Louis van Gaal’s pre-match words probably weren’t meant to sound condescending or patronising, but they were certainly open to interpretation.

And it wouldn’t have come as much of a surprise had Sean Dyche stuck them up on the dressing-room wall and used them as a pre-match motivational tool.

Something had certainly fired up Burnley’s players for Saturday’s game, as evidenced by the admirable way in which they took the fight to the latest collection of World Cup and Champions League finalists to roll up at Turf Moor.

Much was made last week of the apparent crisis currently engulfing Old Trafford, although it really can’t be that much of a crisis when you can field Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, as well as consoling yourself for your Capital One Cup exit by smashing the British transfer record to bring in Angel di Maria from Real Madrid.

Given the disparity the two club’s resources, you might have anticipated something of a gulf in class. But it simply wasn’t there.

In fact there was one particularly surreal 30-second passage of play when Dean Marney Cruyff-turned di Maria, shortly before Kieran Trippier nutmegged Wayne Rooney.

Although it might be a bit of a stretch to say Burnley could have won, the Clarets were worth a point.

Michael Duff, the only Burnley player to have featured in the Robbie Blake-inspired 2009 win over United was rock-solid in defence. David Jones, once of Old Trafford himself, showed both graft and craft in the centre of midfield, while Scott Arfield continues to look as though he’s been playing at this level for years.

The only quality absent from the Clarets’ game was the ability to open up United’s unconvincing defence.

How interesting it would have been to have seen the half-time draw guest, the afore-mentioned Blake, in his pomp, scheming and conjuring against a vulnerable-looking back three of Blackett, Evans and Jones.

Still, the Clarets should go into the international break in good heart. The performance against United, allied to the second half display at Swansea, have shown that Burnley are starting to find their feet.

The next target, of course, is a win. September’s fixtures – against Crystal Palace, West Brom and Sunderland – will be anything but straightforward, but they can’t be any more demanding than Chelsea, Swansea and Manchester United.

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