Man United’s win over Burnley is a cause for optimism in 2022, but only if efforts like this become the norm

MANCHESTER, England – “It looks more like it,” said the presenter as he opened MUTV’s mid-term coverage of Burnley’s visit to Old Trafford on Thursday, and one could almost hear the relief pouring out of the TVs scattered around the stadium.

The last 12 months have been a tough sell for Manchester United’s internal channel. After all, it is difficult to put a positive spin on defeat in a European final, total humiliation at home against Liverpool and a form so harmful that it forced club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær to the firing.

Fortunately for the operators of United’s TV station – committed, rain or shine, to finding the best of everything – 2021 ended with a light evening. Ralf Rangnick’s team scored within the first 15 minutes of a Premier League league game for the first time this season, scoring three goals in the first half of a league game for the first time since February and eventually winning to a 3-1 win.

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More like that, actually.

“Now eight games in a row without defeat, it’s about taking the next steps,” Rangnick said afterwards. “As expected, it was a very tough, physical match against a team that plays very physically.

“We also showed the qualities we have in our team. It was important today to raise the energy level. The whole team’s performance was much better.”

When one saw United escape with a draw against Newcastle United four days earlier, it was easy to forget that they are still some of the best players in the world. The truth is that for most of 2021 they have not played like that, and success in 2022 will depend on whether the performance against Burnley – collectively and individually – is a glimmer of hope of being quickly extinguished or a sign of things to come. .

Luke Shaw, poor since helping England to the European Championship 2020 final this summer, was back on his way down to the left. Jadon Sancho, who drove forward with pace and goal, gave an acceptable impression of a striker who used to play quite well for Borussia Dortmund. Shaw and Sancho agreed on United’s second goal – conceded as a Ben Mee own goal – after Scott McTominay scored an opening in the eighth minute with an accurate finish from the edge of the penalty area.

With the ball safely put into the net, McTominay sprinted towards the corner flag and shouted “come now” in the forefront. It was not only the MUTV anchor that felt a relief.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the third, the 14th goal since his return to the club, after McTominay’s efforts came back from the post.

McTominay, outstanding against Burnley, has taken more than his fair share of criticism this year, but his efforts and attitude are in no doubt. The same cannot always be said of some of his teammates.

The first six months of 2022 will undoubtedly focus on the search for the next leader, but if this group is to succeed, they must learn that one cannot always hide behind the man in the hot seat.

Solskjær fell short and it was to everyone’s benefit that he left when he did, but he was not helped by his players either. It was e.g. not his fault that Harry Maguire got himself unnecessarily expelled during the disastrous defeat to Watford that was enough to make the Glazers finally run out of patience.

Rangnick, Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag or whoever is next can change training or organize their teams in different ways, but leaders can only do so much. Players must eventually take responsibility for what happens on the court. Manchester City and Liverpool are not just winning because of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp. It helps, of course, but it’s not entirely up to them.

It can not only be about being happy with the status of playing for United, but proving that you belong there day after day. In that regard, McTominay is at least an example that others can learn from, and that’s something Rangnick is already trying to address.

“Now is the time we really start to go up and make it much, much better,” McTominay said. “The manager is so demanding and we play for Man United, that’s what we need to do. We need to do more and hopefully we can do that in 2022.”

It’s easy to play on the front foot with the right energy and intensity when you beat a Burnley team away from COVID-19 and without a win since October. The real challenge is to replicate it over and over again and match City, Liverpool and Chelsea week after week.

Then MUTV would really have something to shout about.

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