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 By Musa Okwonga

Defensive solidity and Martial's magic seal Man United's win at Burnley

Anthony Martial fired in a shot off the crossbar to see Manchester United past Burnley in a tight affair at Turf Moor.
ESPN FC's Craig Burley breaks down all the action from around the Premier League on Saturday.

Manchester United claimed a 1-0 win in the type of fixture they were drawing just weeks ago and, in doing so, stay second in the Premier League. The victory was far from stylish, with possession often sloppily conceded, but Anthony Martial rose above the mediocrity and it was fitting that he should drive home the winner.

BurnleyBurnley
Manchester UnitedManchester United
0
1
FT
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Positives

Martial was a growing threat after a slow first half, while Romelu Lukaku was purposeful in attack and built play with underrated poise. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were resilient in defence and Ashley Young found a measure of room down the left flank.

Negatives

Paul Pogba's use of the ball was inconsistent and Jesse Lingard had one of those afternoons where he was defensively diligent but not creatively inspired. Juan Mata also failed to make a notable impression.

Manager rating out of 10

6 -- Jose Mourinho got the job done but his team lacked urgency from the outset and it is hard to think that the midfield setup was not partly to blame. United need further investment in this area, or at least to make better use of Ander Herrera.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK David De Gea, 7 -- Unemployed for the bulk of this game apart from a couple of startling moments, including watching a second-half Johann Berg Gudmundsson free kick rattle off his crossbar.

DF Antonio Valencia, 7 -- An afternoon that high on perspiration but low on attacking penetration, as Burnley's furious defensive discipline kept him away from the final third.

DF Phil Jones, 7 -- Another composed performance, following a similar showing against Stoke last week. He was efficient, read the game and showed proactive use of the ball throughout.

DF Chris Smalling, 7 -- At a similar level to Jones, though less ambitious with the ball. Smalling dealt competently with Burnley's attacking threat and was particularly attentive to danger when they counter-attacked.

DF Ashley Young, 7 -- Almost scored a superb opener in the first half, harking back to his days as a winger, and showed much of that flair and tenacity throughout.

In 2018, Manchester United have not conceded a goal in five games in all competitions.

MF Nemanja Matic, 7 -- Provided good protection for his defence at the base of midfield, although his passing into the final third lacked the sharpness of previous matches.

MF Paul Pogba, 6 -- Had some sublime moments and an impressive work ethic, but it never truly clicked for him. On a better day, he would have played in teammates in clear scoring positions.

MF Jesse Lingard, 6 -- Worked hard defensively but did not offer the quality in the final third that has been seen in recent weeks. Lacked urgency when he was called upon to finish.

FW Juan Mata, 6 -- Toiled tirelessly but could not impose himself or find a great deal of room against, so often dropped deep to build play where he could.

FW Anthony Martial, 7 -- Raised his game markedly after a sluggish first half and provided a finish of devastating accuracy for the winning goal. He beat his man off the dribble time and again and he reminded that he is an elite talent.

FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 -- His vision and movement were evident in his match-winning assist, when he dropped off and angled a cross-field pass into the feet of Martial. Lukaku cut a slightly frustrated figure given the failure of his teammates to find him in similarly good positions.

Substitutes

MF Marouane Fellaini, NR -- Spread the play patiently from the moment of his introduction with 18 minutes left.

FW Marcus Rashford, MR -- Showed urgency but was guilty of poor decision-making; going it alone when he could have played in one of his teammates.

MF Ander Herrera, NR -- Came on to run down the clock in stoppage time, but could have been introduced earlier, given the high quality of his recent passing into the final third.

Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.

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