REPORT: Burnley 0 Manchester United 1
Deflected Pogba strike ends Clarets' home run as United hit top spot
The Clarets suffered their first home defeat since October as Manchester United went to the top of the Premier League.
Burnley saw their unbeaten four-match league run at Turf Moor ended by Paul Pogba’s deflected second-half strike as United extended their undefeated record away from home to 15 matches.
A point would have been enough to take the visitors to the top of the pile for the first time at this stage of a season for eight years - the last time they won the championship.
And in a battling finish from Burnley, that was almost their only reward as Sean Dyche's men went close to denying United a clear advantage over Liverpool in the title race before the two sides meet at Anfield on Sunday.
In a late flurry, the Clarets piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser.
But substitute Matej Vydra was just unable to conjure up a game-saver for the second match in a row and James Tarkowski also went close as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side held on to slow the Clarets’ momentum following their recent surge up the table.
The Clarets had Ashley Westwood and Josh Brownhill back in their starting line-up in a game re-arranged from the opening day of the season as the midfield partnership that had started all bar one of Burnley’s Premier League fixtures was re-united.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson was also back on top-flight duty for the first time since November and the wideman was heavily involved in a decent opening from the Clarets.
Balls into the penalty area unsettled the visitors, with Robbie Brady getting the first sight of goal inside the first 30 seconds with a volley he hit over the bar.
Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes frequently linked well and from one Barnes’ lay-off, Wood saw a shot charged down by Eric Bailly from the Clarets’ best opening of the first half.
United’s only real threat came through Anthony Martial, who fired wide as he looked to score at Turf Moor for the fourth year in a row, before VAR then took centre stage with half an hour gone.
Referee Kevin Friend looked at incidents at both ends of the pitch before rescinding a yellow card for Brady and awarding one to United full-back Luke Shaw for a late challenge on Gudmundsson.
And VAR then backed up a decision by Friend to disallow a goal for visiting skipper Harry Maguire for a push on Erik Pieters before the first save of the night just before the break saw Nick Pope make an excellent stop to turn a long-range Martial effort over the bar.
Pope remained the busier of the two goalkeepers at the start of the second half, although it was all regulation stuff for the England man as Edinson Cavani mis-cued on his return from a three-match ban and Bruno Fernandes shot straight at Pope as United looked to crank up the pressure.
With 25 minutes to go, Burnley boss Dyche sent for fresh legs, with Dwight McNeil replacing Brady to make a welcome return after three games out through injury.
But the Clarets were being increasingly pushed back and - despite their usual defensive resilience - United forced the breakthrough with 20 minutes to go.
Pogba’s volley from Marcus Rashford’s cross was sweetly struck, but it still needed a deflection off Matt Lowton on his 150th appearance for the Clarets to wrong-foot Pope and find the back of the net.
Historically, Burnley have struggled to score against the 20-time former champions at Turf Moor with their only home goal against United in the Premier League era being Robbie Blakes’s winner at the first attempt 12 years ago.
And with United determined to hold onto the result that would take them clear at the top of the table they gave the Clarets few opportunities until the closing few minutes when Brownhill whistled a volley just wide after Aaron Wan-Bissaka had headed clear Lowton’s cross.
That gave Burnley renewed belief as a reward for staying in the contest and Dyche's men began to pepper the United penalty area in search of a leveller.
Vydra almost grabbed a second dramatic goal in four days following his FA Cup strike as he met Westwood’s cross with perfectly struck effort that was deflected into the side netting off Bailly.
And in stoppage time Vydra shot wide again moments after Tarkowski – whose excellent tackle on Martial had kept the Clarets just a goal behind – had a chance to grab a point with a volley he couldn’t catch cleanly enough to dampen the celebrations of the team he supported as a boy.
Burnley: Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Brownhill, Brady (McNeil 65); Wood (Vydra 80), Barnes (Rodriguez 87). Substitutes: Norris, Cork, Stephens, Bardsley, Long, Benson.
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Matic, Pogba; Rashford (Greenwood 80), Fernandes (McTominay 89), Martial (Tuanzebe 90+4); Cavani. Substitutes: Henderson, Mata, Fred, James, Telles, van de Beek.
Booked: Shaw, Fernandes
Referee: Kevin Friend