Football Features

Burnley 0-1 Man Utd: Jonny Evans rolls back the years but Kompany’s Mr Worldwide catches the eye

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:02, 23 September 2023 | Updated: 13:35, 26 September 2023

Jonny Evans rolled back the years as Manchester United ended their torrid away run with a 1-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor.

The Northern Irish centre-back returned to Old Trafford in the summer transfer window, eight years after he left the club as a three-time Premier League champion. As well as winning the league during his previous nine-year stay, Evans also picked up two League Cups and the Champions League, as well as the Club World Cup.

An excellent servant during his former spell, Evans’ return was mocked by rival fans, as it did smell a little of desperation. Evans is now 35 and was part of the Leicester City squad relegated from the Premier League last season, captaining the Foxes on their way down.

Evans’ return wasn’t the best one either, coming off the bench in the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal, deflecting Declan Rice’s shot past Andre Onana late in the game. But against Burnley, with centre-back options thin, Evans was thrown in from the start in what was his 200th appearance for the club. And he was the solid rock Man Utd’s defence needed on the road.

Evans (81) had more touches than any other Man Utd player, completed 90.9% of his 66 passes (misplacing just six), made a match-high eight clearances and even won two fouls.

Evans also played his part at the other end of the pitch. First he had a goal ruled out for an offside against Rasmus Hojlund, before setting up Bruno Fernandes’ opener with a beautiful pass.

“Exquisite pass. He’s led the back line very well today, a lot of pressure coming into this game but he’s responded very well,” ex-teammate Rio Ferdinand said on TNT Sports.

“Probably the most calm and assured player on the pitch.”

He added: “I think Jonny Evans was outstanding at the back. [He] marshalled that back line very well, showed his leadership skills, his experience, played a part in the goal.”

Fernandes’ lovely volley came on the stroke of half-time and Man Utd didn’t have it all their way in the opening 45 minutes. Before Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s injury forced a tactical change, Luca Koleosho had been giving Diogo Dalot a tough evening, getting the full-back booked in the opening stages.

Koleosho, 19, completed four dribbles in the game, more than every other player on the pitch combined — for both sides — at the point of his substitution.

Across the campaign as a whole, no Premier League player has won possession in the final third more times this season than Koleosho, with the Burnley winger level on 10 with Eberechi Eze. And only the Crystal Palace man (25) has completed more take-ons in the Premier League this season than Koleosho’s 16.

A lot of the excitement surrounding Koleosho also comes from his international allegiances. The teenager is eligible to represent the USA, Canada, Nigeria and Italy. So far he has represented the USA at U15 level, Italy at U19 and U20 (winning the U19 Euros) and has been called up to the senior Canadian team, though did not feature. Interestingly, Koleosho’s U19 Euros win with Italy came after his senior Canadian call up. Pitbull would be jealous of Burnley’s Mr Worldwide. It can’t be a coincidence that his name sounds similar to Pitbull’s song Calle Ocho.

Man Utd did eventually manage to hold onto the 1-0 win, ending a three-game losing streak away from home this season. In fact, the Red Devils had lost five of their last six away games across all competitions and 10 of their 17 in 2023, with this being just their sixth success in game 18.