Of all the Manchester United players to show up before the interval in an FA Cup draw on Saturday night against the league opposition, Harry Maguire was the one who could have had the most playing time.
Prior to Watford’s visit, Maguire had started 19 straight games at Manchester United and he was only fully rested for one game all season. The United captain even started for Luton in the third round of the Carabao Cup.
Maguire’s conditioning is not as risky as his availability at Anfield, however. The 27-year-old is a reservation away from a national suspension and is certain to be involved in physical duels with Burnley’s brothers Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes.
That Maguire was on the bench against Watford confirmed his starting status at Turf Moor. He has started in every Premier League game for United since joining and, with the top spot possible, will not be rested for their biggest game of the season.
A slog, rather than a walk?
United’s only loss to Burnley during the Premier League came on the night of Turf Moor’s Premier League opener in 2009, and since Robbie Blake beat Ben Foster on that balmy August night, Burnley didn’t score against United at home and United won. their last four at the Clarets.
Still, United haven’t scored a domestic brace over Burnley in the top flight since Tommy Docherty was coach and Burnley took a 2-0 lead on their last three visits to Old Trafford, where they are unbeaten in four.
United’s easiest game at Burnley came in early 2018-19, when Burnley’s domestic form was compromised by Europa League qualifying and even that ended 2-0. Chelsea are the only team to have scored more than once at Burnley in the league all season and they have lost two in their last nine games – both away at Leeds and Manchester City.
With James Tarkowski and Ben Mee protecting goalkeeper Nick Pope, Burnley has one of the toughest defensive thorns in the league and it’s rarely a walk for United against them.
Even though Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof weren’t in the squad, United coaches tonight have enough coverage. Edinson Cavani is available to bolster United’s attack, Alex Telles is a good backup option and Axel Tuanzebe or Eric Bailly are more suitable supplements for Maguire.
As Louis van Gaal once said, United have ‘only one injured player’ and Phil Jones is not even part of his Premier League squad.
At the top of the tree?
It shouldn’t come as a shock that the last time United were at the top after 17 appearances was in 2012-13 and last January they were leading in 2013.
They only need one point to pass Liverpool, but beating Burnley would give them a three-point cushion and open up the potential for them to end the week at Anfield six points clear.