Sunday, May 22, 2022

Burnley vs Manchester United: A Complete Tactical Preview And One Surprising Prediction

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Dan Attwood
London based, Brighton fan.

If Sean Dyche or Jose Mourinho were given a choice to play the other at any point during this season, they would probably pick this weekend. Burnley are winless and fatigued as they ready themselves for their tenth game in just over five weeks. United seem on the verge of crisis after two successive defeats and Mourinho’s heaviest ever home loss.

Man United

Despite the defeat to Spurs, Mourinho should try to avoid reverting to his usual passive system and persist with the high-intensity structure that was debuted last Monday. Individual errors in defence cost United last week, who were unfortunate to be so heavily beaten.

Mourinho responded to the defeat at Brighton, and his team played in a very un-Mourinho manner. They played at a much higher tempo, pressed aggressively and sampled a new 3-3-3-1 formation with Ander Herrera in a make-shift centre-back role. The use of three centre-backs gives Pogba and Fred more freedom to affect the attacking phases and they both linked well with Jesse Lingard who came back into the starting XI to good effect. They and Nemanja Matic make up what looked to have the makings of an encouraging midfield diamond.

It is clear that Mourinho isn’t happy with his options at centre-half, and the obvious downside of the 3-3-3-1 is needing to select an additional central defender. Herrera is unlikely to continue in this position after his inexperience in defence allowed Spurs to break the offside trap for the second goal. It is likely that Eric Bailly would come back into the fold, having sat out the Spurs game after backlash from mistakes made vs Brighton. Bailly may accompany Smalling, but Jones would miss out, meaning that the regarding Lindelof may have to deputise if they are to continue with three centre-backs.

Predicted line-up: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic, Fred, Pogba, Lingard, Lukaku


For Burnley, there are unlikely to be many surprises in terms of personnel or approach. In spite of failing so far to replicate the form of last season, they have every right to view this game as a chance to take points away from a top-six side whose fear factor has vanished.

The Burnley manager is unlikely to make any knee-jerk changes despite the Claret’s below-par start to the season, and we can expect Burnley to stay compact and sit relatively deep when out of possession. Dyche knows his team’s limitations and would be happy to wait for opportunities to arise before breaking forward. Cork and Westwood – aided by Hendrick, unless Dyche opts for two strikers – mustn’t allow Pogba and Fred the time on the ball to dictate the game and Burnley’s wide players (likely Lennon and Taylor) must be vigilant to deal with the width provided by Shaw and Valencia, especially if United continue to use them as wing-backs.

Dyche has become an expert at exploiting opponent’s weaknesses, and United’s is glaringly obvious. He would hope that the Burnley attackers can impose themselves upon the United back-line and prey on mistakes. Wood, Barnes and Vokes are a nuisance and clinical when given a chance; experts at making a centre back’s life uncomfortable. Burnley would be direct in possession and move through their attacking phases quickly to prevent United from getting men behind the ball. Crosses delivered by Lowton and Ward will be important to supply the Burnley forwards with enough ammunition to test the United defence. Gudmundsson’s delivery will be a big miss for Burnley, and a lack of squad depth in wide areas may hamper the Clarets this season, as they rely upon the wings to create opportunities.

Predicted line-up: Hart, Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, Ward, Lennon, Westwood, Cork, Taylor, Barnes, Wood

Watch out for: Burnley strikers constant tussling with the United defence with the aim to win free kicks up the field. It is a feature of their play.


Burnley 1 – 1 Man Utd

Both teams are formidable when taking the lead, so the first goal would be significant. United can expect a similar test as they did at the Amex, but if they can replicate the tempo they displayed at home to Spurs, they should be able to break through Burnley’s rear-guard. Dyche will have his side fired up and mustn’t show United too much respect, knowing that there aren’t many better opportunities to take three points away from Manchester United.

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