MANCHESTER, UK – Manchester United dropped out of the top four as Jay Rodriguez’s 100th career league goal – and first in 50 games – earned relegation-battling Burnley a well-deserved 1-1 draw at Turf Moor.
United dominated the first half as Paul Pogba, making his first Premier League start since his red card in the 5-0 capitulation to Liverpool in October, showed flashes of his brilliant best and fired the visitors in front with 18 minutes gone.
It was one of three times United had the ball in the Burnley net in the first half, with the other two ruled out, but momentum shifted radically in the second half after Rodriguez levelled in the 47th minute with the hosts then squandering chances to win it.
Sean Dyche will see it as a hugely encouraging point but will also know his side must soon find a way to accumulate them in threes if they are to survive – Newcastle’s win over Everton meant the gap to safety increased on the night to four points.
Ralf Rangnick left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench in favour of Edinson Cavani, and pointedly said the decision was made because of the need to chase down Burnley and battle for second balls.
Dyche had promised to make it awkward for the visitors but, on the night that Burnley celebrated their 5,000th professional league game, they struggled to keep his word in the first half – allowing United too much time and space while gifting them possession.
The visitors had the ball in the net with 12 minutes gone at Turf Moor. Mike Dean blew for what was a soft foul at best on Pogba, and Bruno Fernandes whipped in the ball for Raphael Varane to head in at the far post.
United celebrated what they thought was a first goal from a set-piece this season but Dean was advised to check the pitch-side monitor. Though Varane was on, the goal was eventually ruled out as a clearly offside Harry Maguire had barged into Rodriguez as the ball came in.
It was only a temporary reprieve for Burnley. Six minutes later, Pogba left no room for debate as he thumped the ball high into the net from Luke Shaw’s pull-back after Burnley had allowed Marcus Rashford far too much space down the left.
The ball was in Burnley’s net again moments later as Ashley Westwood inadvertently poked home Rashford’s low cross, but it was quickly ruled out for a foul by Pogba on Erik Pieters in the build-up.
Burnley were left exposed down the right time after time, but United could not capitalise as the best of the chances was headed straight at Pope by Cavani.
Everything changed after the break. Burnley, whose last home league goal against United came back in 2009, did not have a shot in the first half but needed only two minutes of the second to level.
Weghorst did well to wriggle free of two defenders before turning and playing in Rodriguez, who held off Maguire before firing under David De Gea for his first league goal in 360 days.
The atmosphere changed in a moment, and Weghorst brought a fine save out of De Gea with a powerful strike from 20 yards before Pieters flashed a volley narrowly wide from the resulting corner.
United’s problems continued as Rodriguez span around Maguire, who hauled him back and was grateful to see only a yellow card.
After seeing Connor Roberts blaze over another decent chance, Rangnick sent for Ronaldo in the 67th minute.
United slowly regained some initiative – Varane’s cute drag-back was blocked by Mee in the 79th minute before Ronaldo headed over – but Burnley defended doggedly, roared on by Turf Moor, as they restored some faith after Saturday’s drab goalless draw with Watford.