Man United’s victory over Burnley is cause for optimism in 2022, but only if efforts like this become the norm.

MANCHESTER, England – “That’s more,” the host said as he opened MUTV’s halftime coverage of Burnley’s visit to Old Trafford on Thursday, and relief could almost be heard spilling over the televisions scattered around the stadium. .

The last 12 months have been a tough sell for Manchester United’s internal channel. After all, it’s hard to put a positive spin on defeat in a European final, a total humiliation at home for Liverpool and a streak so damaging it forced club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to fire.

Fortunately for United’s television station operators, forced come rain or shine, to find the best in everything, 2021 ended with a quiet night. Ralf Rangnick’s team scored within the first 15 minutes of a Premier League match for the first time this season, scored three goals in the first half of a league match for the first time since February, and ultimately achieved a 3-3 victory. one.

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Rather, in fact.

“Now, eight games in a row without a loss, it’s about taking the next steps,” Rangnick said afterward. “As expected, it was a very tough and physical match against a team that plays very physical.

“We also showed the qualities that we have in our team. Today it was important to raise the energy level. The performance of the whole team was much better.”

Watching United escape with a draw against Newcastle United four days earlier, it was easy to forget that they are still some of the best players in the world. The truth is that for much of 2021 they have not played like that, and success in 2022 will depend on whether the performances against Burnley – collectively and individually – are a glimmer of hope to be quickly extinguished or a sign of things to come. .

Luke Shaw, poor since helping England reach the final of Euro 2020 in the summer, returned to the charge on the left. Jadon Sancho, moving forward with pace and determination, gave an acceptable impression of a forward who used to play quite well for Borussia Dortmund. Shaw and Sancho combined for United’s second goal, scored as an own goal by Ben Mee, after Scott McTominay had scored the first goal in the eighth minute with a precise shot from the edge of the penalty area.

With the ball safe in the net, McTominay ran to the corner flag yelling “let’s go” at the top of his lungs. It wasn’t just the MUTV host feeling a sense of relief.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the third, the fourteenth goal since his return to the club, after McTominay’s effort returned to the post.

McTominay, outstanding against Burnley, has received more criticism than his due this year, but his effort and attitude are not in doubt. The same cannot always be said of some of his peers.

The first six months of 2022 will undoubtedly focus on finding the next manager, but if this group is to be successful, they will have to learn that you can’t always hide behind the man on the bench.

Solskjaer came up short, and it was for everyone’s sake that he left when he did, but his players didn’t help him either. It wasn’t his fault, for example, that Harry Maguire was unnecessarily expelled during that disastrous loss at Watford that was enough for the Glazers to finally run out of patience.

Rangnick, Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag or whoever is next can change coaches or organize their teams in different ways, but coaches can only do so much. Players eventually have to take responsibility for what happens on the field. Manchester City and Liverpool don’t win simply because of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp. It helps, of course, but not everything depends on them.

It’s not just about being happy with the state of playing for United, but about showing that you belong there day after day. In that sense at least, McTominay is an example others can learn from, and it’s something Rangnick is already trying to address.

“Now is the time that we really started to step up and do much, much better,” McTominay said. “The manager is very demanding and we play for Man United, that’s what we have to do. We need to do more and hopefully in 2022 we can do it.”

Playing off the front foot with the right energy and intensity is easy when you’re crushing a side of Burnley gutted by COVID-19 and without a win since October. The real challenge is replicating it over and over again and taking on City, Liverpool and Chelsea week after week.

So MUTV would really have something to shout about.


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