For that, they can thank Paul Pogba, the midfielder crowning a beautiful display with a soft winner in the 71st minute. It happened when the Frenchman won a first free kick, the ball went to Bruno Fernandes and he found Marcus Rashford on the right. No.10 crossed and there was Pogba to smash in a volley that beat Nick Pope via a Matthew Lowton deflection.
An elated Solskjær said the meeting would be difficult and praised Pogba. “He’s a good character in the locker room, he’s always the one the guys look at and he’s a world champion of course. He’s at his best at the moment, ”the manager said.
Pogba said: “I am always happy when I win and we are on top. [but] there is still a long way to go, there are some big games to come, so we need to focus on that.
It was a victory that rewarded unwavering determination, a theme of United’s season. Until the Pogba effervescence, they struggled to find a revealing rhythm despite their dominance. Attacks failed before they were built, so the contest got stuck in the middle third: precisely where Burnley wanted it.
When Fernandes, Nemanja Matic and Luke Shaw combined, the latter took out a left cross which Anthony Martial denied and suddenly Fernandes saw the goal. His shot went directly into the hands of the Pope but it was better.
Also good was a move to the other side. This time, Rashford kicked the ball to Fernandes and he chipped it behind Martial, whose aerial volley was again saved by Pope.
Complacency was the biggest threat to United. Fernandes fell prey to it when heavy contact allowed Lowton to pickpocket him – Burnley swept forward but Chris Wood’s attempt was blocked by Eric Bailly.
A small contest then had two VAR intrigue moments. Shaw challenged Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Fernandes took over, hitting a 40-yard pass against Edinson Cavani, who was downed by Robbie Brady as he approached Burnley’s box. Kevin Friend, the referee, blew for a foul and issued Brady a yellow card.
VAR inspected both incidents, then asked Friend to do the same with the Field Monitor. He did so and decided to mark Brady’s reservation and instead send Shaw a yellow card for his tackle on Gudmundsson with the left-back taking his leg after the ball. United were upset, Burnley attempted to come back down the field to take a quick free kick but was not allowed to do so and, when he finally executed it, failed to capitalize.
There was even more confusion when Harry Maguire, whose head was beating Pope, ruled out the “goal” for pushing Erik Pieters by jumping. It seemed tough: the United captain hadn’t hampered the opponent, so his strike was surely legal.