As Manchester United prepare to play Burnley on Tuesday night, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still at the wheel, his team are purring and they have the opportunity to move above Liverpool and top of the Premier League.
For the first time since the Alex Ferguson years, United actually look like they might challenge for the title. Victory at Turf Moor in tonight’s game in hand would take them three points clear of Liverpool ahead of a showdown at Anfield this Sunday.
Nobody who witnessed United’s capitulation to Burnley on that bitterly cold January night last year could have predicted such an impressive transformation in fortunes.
In seven away matches, United have won six and drawn one–scoring 21 times and conceding 11 goals. They have beaten Everton, Brighton, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham, and Sheffield United on their travels and the common characteristic is that apart from Everton, all these teams were below them when they got their victories.
United’s last EPL loss was on November 1, 2020–a 1-0 loss to Arsenal at Old Trafford. In his pre-match interview on the United website, Solskjaer said, “The end of the season starts tomorrow night.”
There are some injury worries, though the good news is the availability of Edinson Cavani, after serving a three-match ban for a racially insensitive post on Instagram. A neck injury forced Eric Bailly off against Watford in the FA Cup while Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba were not named in the matchday squad.
All four returned to training on Monday, and Solskjaer gave an update. “Yeah, all of them trained today [Monday]. Paul [Pogba] and Eric [Bailly] didn’t do all of it, but Luke [Shaw] and Victor [Lindelof] did all of it. I’ve got a decent amount of players to pick from. Let’s see with Paul and Eric and how they are tomorrow,” he added.
Their opponents, Burnley, also have injury concerns for Jimmy Dunne, Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Taylor and Dwight McNeil.
Sean Dyche has only one victory to boast of against United in 10 meetings since the 2014/15 season when he led Burnley back to the EPL and that was in their last meeting when fans at Old Trafford booed the United players off the pitch.
Tuesday creates an avenue for revenge and redemption, and though United fans will not be at Turf Moor, they will applaud their hearts out if the players get all three points and overtake Liverpool to their rightful place at the top of the tree.