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Premier League Matchweek 18 report: Paul Pogba fires Man. United top at Burnlay (0-1)

Manchester United will head into Sunday's showdown at Anfield top of the Premier League after Paul Pogba's volley saw off a stubborn Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor.

Pogba capped another influential performance with the winner as his deflected strike saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side finally unlock the Burnley defence on 71 minutes.

VAR dominated the first period, with Luke Shaw fortunate to see yellow and not red for a forceful challenge on Johann Berg Gudmundsson, before Harry Maguire's header was ruled out for a foul on Erik Pieters.

Burnley came to life after Pogba's second league goal of the season, but United saw out the victory which puts them three points clear of champions Liverpool and top of the Premier League at the 17-game mark for the first time since their 2012/13 title-winning season under Sir Alex Ferguson.

United are now unbeaten in 15 Premier League away games, their last defeat on the road came in January 2020 at Anfield, where they head next on Super Sunday - live on Sky Sports.

Player ratings

Burnley: Pope (7), Lowton (6), Tarkowski (7), Mee (7), Pieters (6), Brady (6), Westwood (6), Gudmundsson (6), Brownhill (6), Barnes (6), Wood (6).

Subs: McNeil (6), Rodriguez (n/a), Vydra (n/a).

Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (6), Bailly (8), Maguire (8), Shaw (6), Matic (7), Pogba (9), Rashford (6), Fernandes (6), Martial (6), Cavani (7).

Subs: Greenwood (n/a), Tuanzebe (n/a), McTominay (n/a).

Man of the Match: Paul Pogba.

How Pogba fired United top of the pile

Burnley and United played out an edgy, goalless first half at Turf Moor that was awash with controversy.

After Bruno Fernandes' first-time shot drew Nick Pope into his first save of the game and Anthony Martial saw an overhead kick blocked, a flashpoint at both ends of the field left both teams fuming and calling for a dismissal.

Shaw lunged in over the ball on Gudmundsson, initiating a counter-attack which saw Robbie Brady scythe Edinson Cavani down on the edge of the box.

Team news

  • Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood and Josh Brownhill returned as Burnley made four changes from the FA Cup penalty shootout victory over MK Dons.
  • Edinson Cavani returned from a three-game suspension and Eric Bailly was the only player to retain his place as Man Utd made 10 changes from the FA Cup win over Watford.

Referee Kevin Friend booked Brady only to have it rescinded after a lengthy VAR review of both incidents ruled Shaw had committed an offence which saw him booked instead.

Fortunate not to have been reduced to 10 men, United looked to have taken full advantage of their reprieve when Maguire rose at the back post to head in Shaw's cross. But there was more controversy as the effort was chalked off after the United captain was adjudged to have fouled Erik Pieters.

There was still time before the break for another United chance, but Pope made a stunning fingertip save from Pope prevented Martial's curled effort nestling in the top corner.

United took complete control of the game in the second half, peppering the Burnley goal, but Cavani was unable to convert their dominance as two presentable chances passed him by.

But the pressure finally told with 19 minutes remaining. Pogba's flick-on initiated an attack and the Frenchman finished it off, lashing Marcus Rashford's cross into the Burnley net courtesy of a deflection off Matthew Lowton. There was to be no denying United top spot as all eyes turned to Anfield.

Opta stats - United win on the road again

  • This is the first time Manchester United have ended the day top of the Premier League table, having played as many as 17 games, since the final day of their title-winning campaign in 2012-13 under Sir Alex Ferguson.
  • Manchester United have kept their first away clean sheet of the season in the Premier League, conceding 11 goals in their previous seven matches on the road in this campaign.
  • Burnley have scored just one goal in their last 10 home league games against Manchester United, compared to 20 in their previous 10 games versus the Red Devils at Turf Moor.
  • Burnley have won just one of their last 26 Premier League home games against the "big six" sides (D4 L21), a 2-1 victory over Tottenham in February 2019.
  • Burnley failed to land a single shot on target against Manchester United, the second time they've not found the target in a Premier League game this season, the other against Chelsea in October.

What the managers said…

Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Sky Sports: "When you get three points in the Premier League it makes you smile. It was a hard-fought three points; it always is up here.

"Paul [Pogba] is a big player for us, he's a character in the dressing room, is always one that the lads look to, he's a world champion. We're seeing the best of Paul at the moment; he's getting better and better every game.

"It's a brilliant position to be in [three points clear of Liverpool]. Of course we know we're going to the champions who have had an unbelievable three-and-a-half seasons, we know it's going to be a difficult game for us, but we are ready for it.

"We couldn't have asked for a better time to play Liverpool because we are in good shape, in good form and are hungry, which is a good thing because these boys want to get better and that's the test of their character and quality."

Burnley boss Sean Dyche told Sky Sports: "I thought it was a good performance against a top side who are doing well. We are improving and will continue to grow as the season goes on.

"I thought they [the officials] dealt with it [the VAR incidents] the best way they could. The outcome was the correct one.

"I am a big fan of being careful with the physicality, but on another day that tackle (Shaw's foul) is just a little bit too high and just a little too late.

"I don't want to see people red-carded, but on another day, he might have been off for that."

Man of the Match - Paul Pogba

What's next?

Source: Sky Sports / Jack Wilkinson
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