United 3 Burnley 0: Verdict
THE doomsday scenario spelt out bleakly to potential bond investors in black and white last week was played out in grim full colour reality at Old Trafford for an hour on Saturday. Then for half an hour, the crumb of comfort fans had sought, after a traumatic post-financial results, week came to the Reds' rescue. The 322-page document being dished out by the Old Trafford roadshow to money-men around the globe warned of the possibilities of not being able to retain or acquire top players. It cautioned that increase in competition could lead to the side not finishing in the must-have Champions League slots. Sir Alex Ferguson's successor might not be as successful and the Reds might not attract the best managers or players in future. It was a sobering manuscript but one many fans were privately considering anyway in a season when the champions have spluttered. For that gloomy 60 minutes against Burnley it was as if Fergie was back home in Wilmslow with his pipe and slippers and a bunch of second-class impostors were wearing the red shirts. If the United suits travelling around the length and breadth of the planet trying to persuade anyone to buy into the Glazer's desperate rescue plan were as convincing as the Reds were against Burnley for two-thirds of the match then the financial SOS plan is in perilous danger. If that was a sneak preview of the future then it is doubtful that many would invest a bean. However, the final 30 minutes is a more likely insight into the future and a more acceptable prospect. Burnley have been enduring their own trauma having had to digest the shock loss of manager Owen Coyle to Bolton and installing a manager who had been sacked by a championship side. Confidence But Premier League newcomer Brian Laws could prove how bizarre the managerial merry-go-round is. With United still appearing to be struggling to plug the leaks in their confidence-tanks, Burnley threatened to do what they did at Turf Moor in August - and beat the Reds. That night was the first hint that this campaign wasn't going to be a comfortable one for United and had Steven Fletcher converted a seventh minute golden opportunity, heaven knows what might have transpired. The striker was presented with his Stretford End chance by ex-United reserve Chris Eagles as Burnley broke out three on one. Fortunately, Fletcher pulled his shot wide with Edwin Van der Sar at his mercy. It just piled on the anxiety both on and off the pitch and with Wayne Rooney snatching at chances, Dimitar Berbatov stabbing a great effort wide after a magical touch the apprehension grew. Burnley then squandered another gilt-edged opportunity to really expose United's nerves. Again it was Eagles, enjoying his chance on a stage he hardly played on as a United player, who set up David Nugent in the 60th minute. The striker forced his way past Gary Neville and like Fletcher earlier had Van der Sar exposed but slid his shot wide. United finally woke to the fact they were dallying with another potential home embarrassment to match the Leeds FA Cup exit in the previous Old Trafford match. Sir Alex Ferguson had talked about his conundrums in attack in his pre-match conference and the Rooney-Berbatov ticket had done nothing in terms of converting chances to justify their first-choice status. Rooney is the club's biggest name jewel and asset that the prospective bond investors have had to be cautioned might not be around if things go awry. That really is a frightening prospect. Rooney Even when the England striker is having a wayward day he keeps at it and after 64 minutes he slipped an excellent ball for partner Berbatov to steer the ball home. The cloud of anxiety that had engulfed Old Trafford disappeared as quick as the snow in the recent thaw. Burnley probably knew what was coming and five minutes later the two front men were involved again with the Bulgarian's shot being parried away to Rooney and he kept his head and fired in the second. There was even more comfort to come for Reds fans when Mame Diouf came on. If United are truthfully unable to splash the cash now or won't be able to dip into the coffers in the future at least Fergie has set up a scouting network that can still unearth bargain gems. The Senegalese newcomer looks like he could eventually be categorised in the Solskjaer, Schmeichel, Irwin or Cantona snip bracket of United buys. Presented with your first Premier League goal chance in front of the Stretford End needs nerves of steel to convert the unforgettable moment. The ex-Molde hitman nipped ahead of Burnley's keeper Brian Jensen to coolly lift Valencia's ball over his giant frame to score. The acrobatic celebration was pretty good too. Perhaps the future isn't going to be that bleak after all. United fans had been so gob-smacked by that dismal opening hour and too relived watching the final 30-minute revival and altogether so wrapped up in the one thing that really matters to them, that the Glazers were spared a sustained vocal backlash. Once the three points were secure and they could relax and turn their attentions to other matters, the American owners were told in no uncertain terms what the support think of last week's unsavoury revelations. What is your verdict? Have your say.
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