Burnley v Man United: Red Devils aiming to end long absence from Premier League summit

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Typically, Burnley v Manchester United wouldn’t be the kind of match that gets a lot of attention from those who don’t have a vested interest in either team.

It may be a somewhat local match, but Burnley may not be, with all due respect, the kind of team that attracts stripes of neutrals.

However, Tuesday’s game at Turf Moor has genuine significance for United as it provides them with a chance to rise to the top of the Premier League.

Of course, it may only be January 12 and we are not in the middle of the season, but that opportunity represents real progress.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men enter the game, which was postponed early in the campaign due to United’s run to the Europa League semi-finals, tied on points with Liverpool, which they host at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Once the leading powerhouse in the Premier League with Alex Ferguson, United haven’t been at that level for a while, could this be the start of a sustained resurgence?

Long time coming

At Solskjaer’s pre-match press conference, he initially downplayed the importance of reaching the top in January, suggesting such matters were trivial until March or April.

However, he also told the team that it is time for United to re-establish themselves as title challengers.

It would be generous to suggest that they have deserved that distinction at any time since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

Their best result during this time was second in 2017-18, although United finished 19 points adrift from a devastating Manchester City that looked like champion-elect for much of the season as they racked up a record 100 points.

In fact, United have been at the top of the table for a total of 51 days in the post-Ferguson era: 41 of them were under José Mourinho, eight with Louis van Gaal and only two during the ill-fated reign of David Moyes.

The last time they finished the day at the top of the Premier League table was in August 2018, although considering their 2-1 win over Leicester City was the only game on the first day of the season and they did not retain your place for 24 hours. , one has to wonder if that counts.

But what highlights the strides Solskjaer has made most is the fact that none of those 51 previous days at the summit was such an advanced season.

Of course, Burnley could still pull off a surprise and United could finish the season without even being in first place, or this could be a defining moment for them and Solskjaer.

The Fernandes factor

Every team needs its talisman and even United’s most ardent supporter will surely admit that any title challenge would be impossible without Bruno Fernandes.

The Portugal midfielder’s influence since joining United at the end of the January 2020 transfer period has been nothing short of remarkable.

While Liverpool have certainly not been without staffing issues, Fernandes has more than played his part in closing the gap.

When we look at the Premier League table during Fernandes’ time in England, United is in first place with 65 points from 30 games, three ahead of Liverpool, who have played an extra game.

United’s 19 wins are a league record and their three losses are the lowest in the same time frame, while only Liverpool (66) have scored more than their 63.

They may already be far ahead without the defensive woes that have intermittently raised their heads, though few would accuse the team of a lack of character – United have claimed 25 points for losing positions since Fernandes’ first game.

‘On the road is where I really come to life’

If there is something that the Man United of Solskjaer and The office The character of David Brent they have in common is that they enjoy life on the road.

United’s record away from home for the past year has been in a league of their own, as they are unbeaten in 14 away games at Old Trafford.

He is also far from home, where his never-dying attitude has been most prominent. They rarely see a foregone conclusion when they fall behind, with 20 of their 36 points on the road coming from being at least one goal short. That’s twice as much as any other team.

If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain, but luckily for United they still haven’t been wrong on their travels since February.

They’re averaging 2.6 points per away game, and no other team has more than 1.7.

Solskjaer won’t be getting a free ride on Turf Moor on Tuesday, but will surely wait for at least the point they need to get to the top.

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