After conceding ten goals in their last three matches, all Manchester United needed was a routine 1-0 win at a tough ground.
That’s what they achieved on Saturday evening at Turf Moor, with a Bruno Fernandes strike and a clean sheet just about pumping some renewed positivity into Erik ten Hag’s side.
There have been a host of distractions already this season. The Glazer’s inability to sell the football club, Harry Maguire’s rather harsh treatment, allegations involving Antony and Jadon Sancho’s falling out with the manager.
This was not what Ten Hag wanted after he’d laid some solid foundations last term. Qualifying for the Champions League and winning a trophy was a truly successful first campaign for the Dutchman, so to see it fall apart somewhat in the early knockings of 2023/34 is disappointing.
Prior to their meeting with Vincent Kompany’s men, the Red Devils had lost three on the bounce. A confidence booster was much required, therefore, and that’s what they got this weekend.
That said, it’s still not sunshine and rainbows across the entire team, with a number of the squad failing to find form on Saturday. Marcus Rashford’s display on the flanks was branded as ‘erratic‘ by MEN’s Samuel Luckhurst, but Scott McTominay wasn’t too much better.
Why is Scott McTominay playing?
When Sofyan Amrabat signed for Man United on transfer deadline day, it looked as though Ten Hag had acquired the perfect midfield player for his side.
A metronomic presence with a remarkable passing range and an ability to break up the play, his potential presence alongside Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes was something to lust after.
The Moroccan’s lack of playing time in pre-season with Fiorentina as he pushed for an exit has meant he’s needed to bide his time for a starting berth, but after McTominay’s start to the campaign, a place in the XI must soon be forthcoming.
Only seven days ago during the defeat against Brighton, Luckhurst stated that it was “inexplicable” that he had been picked for the game having underwhelmed as the Seagulls ran ragged.
As a consequence, he was finally dropped against Bayern in midweek, only to be selected from the off again at Turf Moor.
How did McTominay play against Burnley?
That selection was hardly vindicated, however, with the aforementioned Luckhurst once again slating the Scottish midfielder.
The reporter was seemingly bemused by the selection again, stating: “A questionable selection and was often all at sea as United’s midfield issues continued. His discipline in the final half-an-hour ensured he stayed on.”
That all-at-sea nature meant the Scot lost a whopping 82% of his physical duels during the contest. For a player who stands at 6 foot 4, his inability to win tackles was concerning. Indeed, he won just two of his eight ground battles and neither of his three aerial contests.
To make matters worse, McTominay completed just 81% of his passes and registered 47 touches, the same as goalkeeper Andre Onana. It was hardly a surprise to see him described as “horrid” in and out of possession by content producer Casey Evans. Worryingly, such a lack of influence has been seen in two league games running now, with the £60k-per-week earner making only 22 touches against Brighton.
The Scotland international was linked away regularly over the summer months, notably to West Ham who saw a bid rejected for his services.
He has been a key part of the squad, for better or for worse, in the opening exchanges of the season but with Amrabat to slot into the side and Mason Mount still to return from injury, there will soon come a point when he sits on the sidelines. At that point, Ten Hag may well be wishing he’d sold him.
Either way, the Dutch boss must surely look at restoring him to the bench for their two fixtures against Crystal Palace in the forthcoming week.