Photo: Paul Pogba's 71st winner took Manchester United to the top of the Premier League on Tuesday (Getty Images)
Manchester United climbed to the summit of the English Premier League for the first time since August 2018 with a hard fought 1-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday.
Paul Pogba's magnificent second-half strike was the difference as United secured the result their dominance deserved, with the 1-0 triumph taking them three points clear of rivals Liverpool, heading into Sunday's mouth-watering Anfield encounter.
Manchester United went into Burnley’s game off the back end of a 1-0 win over Watford in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday night, knowing that a point would see them move above Liverpool to the top of the Premier League table.
Eric Bailly was doubtful for the clash with Burnley, having been forced off against Watford with a neck injury following a collision with his own goalkeeper Dean Henderson, but he got the nod proving the warrior he is. The Red Devils have now won nine of their last 11 in the league to rise into first position ahead of next weekend's trip to Anfield.
Burnley made only one change to the side that beat Sheffield United last time out in the Premier League. After suffering a hamstring injury against the Blades, Charlie Taylor missed out and was replaced by Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Since the inception of video assistant referee VAR there are very few games without them getting the thumbs up or the stick for their decisions. This encounter was no different with VAR provided the main talking point of a first half. Burnley last man Robbie Brady avoided sanction for bringing down Edinson Cavani due to a Luke Shaw foul in the build-up. Shaw who was booked for his hefty challenge on Johann Berg Gudmundsson, swung in a cross late in the half which Harry Maguire headed home from an acute angle, only to be ruled out for an apparent foul on Erik Pieters. The United skipper was furious that the decision was not reviewed by VAR.
Manchester United flew out of the blocks in a flash in the second half but despite having the lion’s share of possession they did not have anything substantial to show for it.
Burnley leaving one man forward and nine men behind the ball, remained resolute for the greater portion of the game, much to the frustration of Ole and his boys.
Solskjaer's men completely controlled proceedings while asking questions. It was not until the 71st minute, when former Juventus star man and France World Cup winner Paul Pogba came up trumps, firing home a first-time volley from a Marcus Rashford cross at the end of a slick move he had started.
Quite often a goal down or a man down can prove to be the catalyst for a team’s gallant fight. In this case after going down 0-1, Burnley suddenly sprung to life and started asking Manchester United’s defense a lot of questions.
However, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire were stout in defense, providing yet another clean sheet. With less than 10 minutes to go United came under tremendous pressure and with more accuracy or better luck from substitute Matej Vydra and defender James Tarkowski who came agonizingly close, could see Manchester United walking away licking their wounds.
Anthony Martial should have put the game to bed in time added on to continue his rich vein of form against Burnley, after collecting a return pass from Cavani, but his tame shot was blocked by Nick Pope’s leg.
After a tensed 8-minute added time period, Kevin Friend finally put the whistle to his mouth to put the nervous Ole out of his misery. Burnley will now look to bounce back from this defeat when they travel to West Ham in their next fixture. United, meanwhile, travel to Anfield for a top of the table clash with Jurgen Klopps’s Liverpool.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reaction
"No-one will remember the league table on the 12th of January. The frustrations were clear for everyone to see (in the first half) and it affected our performances, so we can't let that happen.
"We've just got to accept once in a while that decisions will go against you and Harry's goal was a perfectly good one, so it's a decision we shouldn't be sat there talking about."
Sean Dyke’s reaction
"A lot of the performance was good, I thought, against a top side who are playing very well," said the Clarets boss. "We're in good form ourselves, but they are a top side, they've got some particularly good individuals as well as a collective.
"I thought a lot of our performance was good, it was effective and inevitably we don't get anything from the game, but the performance was certainly something we can build on."