Jesse Lingard's escapology act against Burnley cannot mask another poor day for Manchester United

England midfielder scored both goals as United fought back from two goals down at Old Trafford to claim a point.

Jesse Lingard, centre, scores Manchester United's first goal in the 2-2 draw against Burnley. Martin Rickett / PA
Jesse Lingard, centre, scores Manchester United's first goal in the 2-2 draw against Burnley. Martin Rickett / PA

Perhaps it was fitting that the directors’ box was littered with pillars of Manchester United’s past. Alex Ferguson, Ryan Giggs and David Gill are reminders of an era when United were synonymous with comebacks.

Watched by them, inspired a local, in Jesse Lingard, who joined the club in Ferguson’s long reign, United summoned the spirit of past recoveries and performed an act of escapology.

“Lingard came in and helped the team,” Jose Mourinho said. The midfielder was introduced at half-time. When he scored his second goal, fizzing a half-volley through a crowded penalty area in the 91st minute, he rescued a point and denied Burnley a historic win.

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Their last victory at Old Trafford came in September 1962, four months before Mourinho’s birth. Jose Time had not been much like Fergie Time in a five-week spell when United kept conceding but, for once, the Portuguese could savour a late goal after the kind of unrelenting onslaught that was reminiscent of past United sides, but not past Mourinho teams.

This was the 20th time he had gone two goals behind in the Premier League, and only the second he avoided defeat. “I praise their spirit, their reaction, the way they accept all the risks we took in the second half,” Mourinho said.

He merited some of the credit for the turnaround, removing an off-the-pace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose first league start in eight months was undistinguished, and Marcos Rojo, a red card waiting to happen, and relocating Nemanja Matic to the heart of the defence.

Lingard injected urgency and incision, a double meaning an often underrated figure now has more goals this season than Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan combined.

But for a fine save by Nick Pope, who deflected a shot on to the bar, where it bounced twice, he would have had a hat-trick. Instead, he halved the deficit with a cute backheel from Ashley Young’s cross.

But the eventual excitement could not camouflage the reality it was another poor day for United. They have gone three games without a win. A slapdash start, with more poor set-piece marking, was compounded by the wrong team selection.

This amounted to further underachievement. Mourinho, who invoked AC Milan to argue big clubs have no divine right to success, has spent around £300 million (Dh1.48 billion).

“Not enough,” he said, but the 13 players Burnley fielded at various points cost around £40m, less than half the price of Paul Pogba.

“The boys are trying hard with the injuries we have,” Mourinho said, but five of Burnley’s strongest side were sidelined and they responded with uncomplaining grit to extend their excellent away record.

They brought a level of purpose a disjoined United side initially struggled to match, allying earthy values, of grit and industry, organisation and teamwork, with the quality lent by Steven Defour. He scored their second goal with an exquisite free kick. “Amazing,” Mourinho said.

Ashley Barnes had stabbed Burnley ahead, the first time they led at Old Trafford since 1975, after United failed to deal with Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s free kick.

Scott Arfield also volleyed against the bar. Burnley could have scored more. So could United. “The end product of so much dominance, two goals, is a miserable number,” Mourinho said.

Another number would be still more miserable. Should Manchester City win on Wednesday night, United will be 16 points behind their neighbours. United would need a comeback far greater than this one.

Published: December 26, 2017 11:08 PM


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