Manchester United has surrendered. This was the latest second-half capitulation, clearly not good enough, sparked by elite players such as Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba, and Bruno Fernandes failing to kill off opponents who are bottom of the Premier League.
The plot was lost in the second 45 minutes, just as it was against Middlesbrough when they were knocked out of the FA Cup on Friday. Burnley earned a crucial point thanks to poor defense for Jay Rodriguez’s goal, which canceled out Pogba’s opener, and United’s inability to score after that.
Rangnick chose to highlight the Varane header and the Burnley own goal, both of which were disallowed. “We scored three goals,” said the interim coach. “That’s not like Friday.” The second one that was disallowed, the linesman flagged foul only 10 seconds later. “I must say, this was a very soft decision.”
Rangnick then focused on United’s primary weakness. “We weren’t proactive enough in the second half,” he said. “It was obvious they were going to be aggressive.” We didn’t defend the entire situation the way we enabled them to score. We had a miserable night because we should have easily won the game. In the end, it came down to a bit of luck. For a performance like this, one point is simply insufficient.”
Rainswept across the pitch on a typical dreary night in the shadow of the Lancashire moors, but it didn’t dampen the visitors’ spirits at first, with a Marcus Rashford attempt forcing Nick Pope to make the game’s first save.
Soon after, United launched an attack, only for it to be called off. Fernandes floated in a free-kick and Varane scored, but, much to Rangnick’s chagrin, Mike Dean was summoned to the monitor and ruled that an offside Maguire had impeded Rodriguez.
Rangnick’s mood was quickly turned around when his side delivered the perfect retort. On the midway, Fernandes flitted around like a firefly and volleyed a pass to Rashford on the left. He fed an overlapping Shaw, and Pogba slammed home the left-cross. Back’s Burnley was in shambles as the France midfielder scored his first goal of the season. United beat Pope again soon after, this time through Ben Mee, but Pogba was ruled to have fouled Erik Pieters in the buildup, and the defender and his team were able to escape.
Rangnick should have reminded his charges of this before they went out. They didn’t care if he did, because Burnley was all square after 47 minutes. Wout Weghorst’s pivot and pass were as fluid as Rodriguez’s slaloming run that brought him in on David de Gea before he coolly equalized.
Burnley was now on top, with Weghorst firing a 25-yard laser that sent De Gea skidding across the turf to his right to prevent a second goal. United was shaken in what had turned into a test of spirit and desire. If they failed to come away with three points after being firmly in control, an investigation into why supposedly top-level professionals lack in-game management would be required.
In one phase, Pogba, Jadon Sancho, Edinson Cavani, and Fernandes all collaborated, but the latter misplaced the last pass towards Burnley’s area, causing the game to break down. Since the sides switched ends, this was United in microcosm. As captain, Maguire was virtually unnoticed throughout, and his last-man tackle on Rodriguez earned him merely a yellow card.
Rangnick introduced Ronaldo with 22 minutes remaining, followed by Jesse Lingard a few minutes later. However, after Varane and the Portuguese missed chances, a humiliating ride home awaited at the final whistle.