Wayne Rooney marks comeback with goal as Manchester United beat Burnley
Returning captain Wayne Rooney complemented Anthony Martial's 10 million euro strike as Manchester United secured a much-needed victory at Burnley, moving Jose Mourinho's men within a point of Manchester City ahead of this week's derby.
Back in action after losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo to serious knee injuries in Thursday's extra-time Europa League triumph against Anderlecht, United knew anything but victory at Turf Moor would damage their top-four ambitions.
Mourinho's much-changed side rallied in the circumstances and Rooney marked his return with a goal after Martial scored a fine opener at Burnley, triggering a 10 million euro (B#8.4million) payment to Monaco and a 2-0 victory for United.
The result moves Mourinho's Reds within a point of fourth-placed City ahead of Thursday's mouth-watering derby clash at the Etihad Stadium, whereas Sean Dyche's Clarets remain five points off the drop zone.
Burnley left Old Trafford with a point earlier this season after weathering the storm, but there was to be no repeat performance on home soil after Martial ended the outstanding counter-attack he started.
The Frenchman, whose 25th goal for United earned a windfall for former club Monaco, was criticised by Mourinho last week but responded impressively at Turf Moor, where his shot led Rooney to net on just his second league start of 2017.
It was the captain's first goal since breaking United's all-time scoring record in January and allowed his team-mates to take their foot off the gas in the second half, comfortably extending their unbeaten league run to a 23rd match.
While Burnley look nervously over their shoulder as the season comes to a conclusion, Mourinho's men continue to fight for a top-four finish and Europa League glory - a run-in they will be without Ibrahimovic and Rojo for.
The duo face a substantial period on the sidelines after both sustaining serious knee ligament damage against Anderlecht and their team-mates showed solidarity on Sunday by warming up in shirts bearing their names.
Despite those setbacks and eight alterations, Mourinho's men showed few ill effects and Rooney could - and perhaps should - have opened the scoring inside nine minutes, only for his scuffed shot to be blocked and caught gratefully by Tom Heaton.
The Burnley goalkeeper, man of the match when the teams drew 0-0 at Old Trafford, soon denied a Marouane Fellaini header as Robbie Brady and Ben Mee had attempts for the hosts.
United, though, were looking the greater threat and made the breakthrough shortly after Rooney's cross-shot went close.
With Burnley having players forward for a set piece, Martial collected the ball and flicked it past Joey Barton deep inside his own half.
The Frenchman held off the midfielder's advances and played the ball wide to Ander Herrera. Martial continued his run and met a fine first-time ball with a deft touch and finish past Heaton.
It was an exceptional counter-attack goal that gave United a 21st-minute lead which Burnley could not cancel out, as intent was not matched by threat on David De Gea's goal.
That lack of cutting edge is something normally associated with United - an issue they did not have to worry about in the first half at Turf Moor, extending their lead in the 39th minute.
Paul Pogba smartly slid through Martial, whose shot squirmed through Heaton's grasp and Rooney reacted quickest to direct home via a deflection off Michael Keane.
Andre Gray saw an attempt to reduce the deficit blocked just before half-time, with the second period just minutes old when Pogba stung the palms of former United goalkeeper Heaton.
The match had now slowed down considerably as United manfully coped with the home side's fleeting attacks, with Michael Keane heading wide and substitute Daniel Agyei fizzing across goal.
Substitute Marcus Rashford, Rooney and Pogba all had efforts for the visitors towards the end of a drab second period - not that Mourinho's men pushed hard given how frantic their fixture schedule is right now.