Last Updated: 02/09/18 9:37pm
Manchester United brought a timely end to their poor run as Romelu Lukaku’s double at Burnley helped alleviate the pressure on Jose Mourinho.
Old Trafford has found itself in the eye of a storm after a shock defeat at Brighton was compounded by the heaviest home defeat of the Portuguese’s managerial career against Tottenham on Monday.
But there was no sign of a hangover on Sunday as United rallied impressively, with Lukaku scoring twice in the first half to set Mourinho’s men on course for a deserved 2-0 win at Turf Moor.
Joe Hart saved Paul Pogba’s penalty and Marcus Rashford’s red card were the only negatives for the visitors and their manager, who has plenty of reasons to be cheerful after a line was drawn under his wretched start to his third season at Old Trafford…
Lukaku repays faith
Mourinho has not been afraid of publicly criticising his players throughout his United tenure, but one player who has regularly escaped the wrath of the Portuguese has been Lukaku.
After signing him for £75m from Everton, Mourinho has stuck by his striker through thick and thin – at Turf Moor, the Belgian stepped up when his manager needed it most.
Lukaku’s only goal prior to Sunday’s win came on an afternoon to forget at Brighton but his two first-half strikes at Burnley – his first league double since his debut in the competition for United back in August 2017 – will have been a welcomed sight to his beleaguered boss.
Mourinho has cut a sombre figure in the dugout this season but he could not help but celebrate Lukaku’s goal, fist pumping on both occasions. If the United boss’ celebrations are to continue, Lukaku will have a big role to play.
Shaw back to full strength
One of the few positives from United’s underwhelming start to the season has been Luke Shaw’s timely return to form.
Mourinho appears to have made it his mission to help Shaw to fulfil his potential, and his hard work with the newly-recalled England full-back is coming to fruition.
For the fourth game running, Shaw completed 90 minutes in the Premier League – the first time the 23-year-old has done so since his horrific double-leg fracture way back in Louis van Gaal’s tenure.
Three years on and, for the first time since arriving at Old Trafford, Shaw looks to be making the left-back position his own.
Character and clean sheets
The fan-funded plane that flew overhead calling executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward “a specialist in failure” was a nod to the fact all is not well at United, but the victory at Burnley was a much-needed show of strength and unity on the field.
Jose defends Woodward over banner
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho defends Ed Woodward after fan-funded banner
With his back against the wall, Mourinho turned to two of his trusted henchmen, Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini, and United maintained a level of control throughout the game which, encouragingly, seemed to increase after being reduced to 10 men.
Instead of sitting back and protecting their lead, United fought fire with fire and would have added further gloss to the victory had Lukaku completed his hat-trick after rounding Joe Hart in the Burnley goal.
For Mourinho, all that was missing from a “beautiful” victory was more goals. “Everything [pleased me],” the United boss said. “We managed to score two goals which was enough to win, but it shouldn’t just be two, it should be three, four, five, six.
“We should have scored before we scored the goals and we should have scored the penalty that would kill the game and also the best chances after the penalty. Even with 10 men, the team was really strong in every aspect of the game.”
Sunday’s victory provided welcome relief to Mourinho, his players and his staff before the international break, where United would have not had the chance to alter the narrative surrounding the club for a fortnight.
Instead, the two-week intermission allows Mourinho to take stock and plot the path the club will take out of one of the most testing spells of his United career.
Trips to two of the three clubs who have 100 per cent records this season – Watford and Chelsea – sandwich a run of games which presents Mourinho and his squad with the chance to put their early-season troubles to bed.
Wolves and Newcastle travel to Old Trafford either side of a trip to pointless West Ham, with Champions League and Carabao Cup ties against Young Boys, Derby and Valencia dotted in between.
If United can maintain their performance against Burnley throughout this period, it’s safe to say Mourinho’s mood, and the club’s, will be of stark contrast to that seen so far.