Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have dropped the first points of his Manchester United caretaker spell but the player who completed this club’s most famous comeback has the first classic turnaround of his own.
The honeymoon appeared to be over. Four days after the best performance of Solskjaer’s spell in charge, here was the worst to date. United were toothless compared to their recent, fluent selves, whereas a dogged Burnley were merciless in front of goal.
Ashley Barnes’ thumping strike at the start of the second half and Chris Wood’s delicate late header gave Sean Dyche’s side hope of maintaining their revival at the bottom of the Premier League table. They seemed to have halted United’s march towards the top.
Yet a frenzied late surge by United salvaged a point. Paul Pogba’s 87th-minute penalty and Victor Lindelof’s 92nd-minute of added-on time – bundled over the line on the rebound after one of several remarkable Tom Heaton saves – means Solskjaer remains unbeaten.
A short, sharp burst of hail fell down on Old Trafford at the sound of the first whistle and it was Burnley who had to weather an early storm. Two openings fell to Marcus Rashford but, despite five league goals in his last six outings, his finishing left something to be desired.
The second chance, in particular, was one he should have taken. Romelu Lukaku’s touch to put him through one-on-one was delicate but so was Rashford’s finish, tamely trickling wide of the far post.
Both sides would have the ball in the net before the end of the half and yet neither would break the deadlock. Wood’s dink over David de Gea was correctly ruled out for offside, as was Pogba’s tap-in after he had been played through by a Juan Mata tackle.
United had several of these moments in the first half, where a promising attack was interrupted by either a stray pass, the referee’s whistle or just a general lack of fluency. Burnley, however, showed no such wastefulness at the start of the second.
Andreas Pereira, a surprise selection making his first league start since the opening weekend, had his pockets picked brilliantly by Jack Cork, with possession turned over 25 yards out from United’s goal. Cork squared to Barnes, who waited before finishing emphatically past a helpless De Gea.
For the first time during his tenure, Solskjaer’s United were behind. Now, perhaps, we would learn how far this side has come since Jose Mourinho’s dismissal, with this first hint of adversity. Yet initially, what followed was much the same as that which had come before.
The second half’s defining image was a crowd of United players inside the visitors’ penalty area, none of them in the space required to break through. When Burnley found themselves in a similar scenario at the other end of the pitch, Wood found a crucial few yards of room.
After Johann Berg Gudmundsson had cut inside and found Ashley Westwood, the midfielder sought out Wood. Ashley Young had too much ground to make up as the ball floated towards the far post. Wood, in space, converted with a simple header.
A memorable victory appeared to be on the cards, but perhaps Dyche’s side forget quite who they are dealing with.
Solskjaer imitated his mentor Ferguson by inspiring a late comeback which began with substitute Jesse Lingard winning a penalty after being pulled down by Jeff Hendrick. Pogba did not stutter his run-up much this time. He took a few short paces then struck into the top corner.
A few months ago, United may have accepted simply reducing the arrears, but Old Trafford suddenly filled with belief. The equaliser would come in the second of five minutes added on.
Heaton superbly denied Alexis Sanchez, stooping low to claw out the Chilean’s header. Lindelof was on hand to lift the ball into the roof of the net. The kind of comeback that this club is famous for was complete.
A few months ago, United may have accepted simply reducing the arrears, but Old Trafford suddenly filled with belief. The equaliser would come in the second of five minutes added on. Heaton superbly denied Alexis Sanchez, stooping low to claw out the Chilean’s header, but Lindelof was on hand to lift the ball into the roof of the net. The kind of comeback that this club is famous for was complete.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies