On fire Rashford, Keane Speculation and Those Old Red Devils.
During the course of the last couple of weeks, whenever I have had occasion to drive around Burnley, I have always made sure that my route has taken in the junction of Belvedere Road and Harry Potts Way.
The reason for this is to experience the small surge of pride that I derive from seeing the words “Next Match, Burnley vs Manchester United” displayed on the giant board on the corner where opposing fans converge.
Foolish I know, but of all the fixtures that Burnley have earned the right to stage as a result of their presence in the Premier League, it is the visit of Manchester United which resonates around me with the greatest clarity.
Whilst always a Claret, I was nonetheless fascinated as a child by the exploits of the legendary trio of Best, Charlton and Law. For my two sons, it was Schmeichel, Beckham and Giggs; great players in great teams achieving great things. We at Burnley could only admire from afar as the distance between the two clubs widened considerably down the decades, only to narrow again now.
When the two teams did meet over the years, then some stirring memories were created; Robbie Blake’s volley for example in 2009 on a night like no other at Turf Moor. Most recently, I was privileged to watch Tom Heaton enjoy the game of his life at Old Trafford, from a vantage point (courtesy of an invitation from one of the sponsors) just two rows behind Sir Alex himself.
Describing tomorrow’s match as “just another three points” serves somehow to diminish those memories and undermines that history and tradition. Sean Dyche and his team are professionals, and they cannot afford themselves the luxury of whimsical nostalgia, but we supporters can, for what would life as a football fan be without it?
Tomorrow’s match is probably one which Jose Mourinho could do without, coming so soon after Thursday’s energy-sapping Europa League match against Anderlecht, which cost United the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo through injuries.
Although this is clearly to Burnley’s benefit, it is slightly disappointing that Zlatan, the self-styled Lion of Old Trafford, will not be roaming the Turf Moor savannah tomorrow.
Marcus Rashford will no doubt deputise for the crocked Swede and the imminent clash between two the young England Lions Michael Keane and Rashford, looks set to be worth the admission money alone.
Also disappointing is that Sky Sports seem intent on marketing Burnley’s top talent. Reports have emerged from “Sky Sports Sources” that Michael Keane will leave the club in the summer, with Old Trafford his likeliest destination.
"Unnamed sources" drive me mad, particularly those in the thrall of Rupert Murdoch. And whilst it will come as little surprise to Clarets' fans that Keane may wish to enhance his burgeoning reputation elsewhere, both the club and the player should be afforded the dignity of not having any future move ground through the rumour mill.
Keane is a superb defender and should he leave, the vast majority of Burnley fans will warm-heartedly thank him for his services and wish him well. But a word of caution, the last Burnley central defender who thought the grass was greener elsewhere was Derby County's Jason Shackell and enough said about that outcome for the Rams, the better.
Finally, a word of congratulations to former Claret Paul Cook, who added guile and craft to the Burnley midfield under Stan Ternent and this week has guided the Portsmouth team he now manages to promotion from League Two.
Burnley fans know all to well what it is like to trawl the backwaters of the basement division, and those long-suffering Pompey fans can thank Cook and his players for their promotion and look forward to the next campaign with even greater optimism.
Talking about optimism. Mourinho travels to Turf Moor in the eyes of many Burnley fans as the underdog. Who was it who said, Football bloody football?"