Manchester United have reached the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup after beating Burnley 2-0 at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
It was a fascinating battle in the North West between Erik ten Hag’s respectfully strong side, which included plenty of World Cup participants and Casemiro at centre-back, and Vincent Kompany’s Burnley, who left the pitch having shattered all pre-conceived notions about the Lancashire club.
The Clarets, once renowned for their physical, up-and-at-em and direct style under Sean Dyche, looked a far more slick and possession-heavy side at Old Trafford, a brand of football almost diametrically at odds with the one they cultivated in the Premier League for most of the 2010s.
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It is clear that some of Pep Guardiola’s managerial stardust has rubbed off on Turf Moor, with Kompany — who played under the City boss for three years at the Etihad — embracing a rhythmic, passing fluidity that echoes the tactical convictions of a certain Catalan coach just a few miles up the road.
For all their good work on the ball, though, it was Ten Hag’s men who ultimately produced the opening goal — and it was beautifully constructed. As Bruno Fernandes collected the ball just outside the box, his lofted ball picked out Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose sinew-stretching cross fell to Christian Eriksen.
It was a fantastic effort from Wan-Bissaka, with the ball from Fernandes initially looking overcooked, but his elastic legs were able to reach the ball and fizz it back across the box for Eriksen to get his first Old Trafford goal. Incredibly, it was AWB’s first assist for Man Utd since May 2021 against Liverpool.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has provided an assist for Man Utd for the first time since May 2021 against Liverpool. 🕷#MUNBUR
— Download the Squawka Live app (@Squawka_Live) December 21, 2022
The forgotten full-back has fallen out of favour at Old Trafford and still looks set to be the subject of transfer speculation next month. But he just offered his manager a reminder that he is still capable of starring for Man Utd and competing with Diogo Dalot for a starting No. 2 berth.
All the conversation was on the tackle master at half-time, but after the restart, attention recalibrated to another English player. Marcus Rashford, appearing for the first time since his showing at the World Cup for England, doubled Man Utd’s advantage on the stroke of the hour mark.
Collecting the ball in his own half, the 25-year-old carried the ball up the field, skipping past Burnley defenders at will, and unleashed a low drive into the bottom corner of the goal. It was an incredible solo effort, one reminiscent of the blurry-eyed strides a certain Kylian Mbappe takes — a notion that has been previously echoed by his manager.
“There is Mbappe in this moment, a type like him. But when he (Rashford)’s getting in that position, he’s great and you see he’s really improved also out of possession.”
The run-and-strike was a quite brilliant sequence of play from Rashford, and it naturally led to plenty of cries online about why he didn’t feature more heavily for England at the World Cup. In total, Gareth Southgate started him just once in Qatar, the game against Wales in which he bagged a brace.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) December 21, 2022
Marcus Rashford!!! What a goal !!!
Gareth Southgate didn’t play this guy I can’t even begin to say how criminal that is.
— luke (@MUFC_luke95) December 21, 2022
southgate gave rashford 30 minutes after his brace.. 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭
— . (@cilIianism) December 21, 2022
Still madness Southgate only give Rashford 6 minutes in the Quarter final at the World Cup.
— Paul, Manc Bald and Bred (@MufcWonItAll) December 21, 2022
Still can't believe Southgate brought Rashford on in the 86th minute against France 😂🤣
— The Red King 🇾🇪 (@UTD_RedKing) December 21, 2022
Despite starting just one game, Rashford finished as England’s top scorer, also bagging against Iran. He was afforded 20 minutes in England’s group opener, before a further 12 against the United States, 25 vs Senegal and only a five-minute cameo in the quarter-final exit to France.
There is no question the talent pool is dense for Southgate, but Rashford’s excellent brace against Wales and his further finish vs Iran were surely enough to justify more than a five-minute teaser against Les Bleus.
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