Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney step into breach

Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, strikers at contrasting stages of their Manchester United careers, emerged from the shadow cast by the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and invigorated their team’s hopes of an unlikely top-four Premier League finish.

Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney step into breach

Premier League

Burnley 0 Man Utd 2

For Martial, in particular, the goal was the perfect response to midweek criticisms from Jose Mourinho that questioned his work ethic and not even the fact Mourinho now owes his former club Monaco an additional €10m, after his 25th goal for the club activated a transfer bonus, will spoil the manager’s mood this morning.

What will, however, was that injury to Ibrahimovic against Anderlecht on Thursday.

Along with defender Marcos Rojo, the Swede suffered knee ligament damage that will require surgery and, given the 35-year-old’s age, must cast a doubt over whether he will play again.

Mourinho declined the chance to comment on Ibrahimovic’s future but his disappointment for both players was tangible.

“Everyone is very sad. We were thinking about them. They have to be strong,” said Mourinho.

“Unfortunately they won’t be the first or last players to get an important injury.

“No player deserves to be injured but I think in this case it’s even more sad because Zlatan, in this stage of his career, it’s really, really hard.

“Yeah I know but I think it’s for the medical department to be more specific and to evaluate over the next few days to see an expert’s opinion and we have to wait and see for that.

“And Marcos probably at this moment in his career is playing very well for us and also finally getting a position as central defender in the international team, so we’re really sad for them.”

At least Mourinho’s sadness was tempered by the performance at Turf Moor and the superb display of Martial who opened the scoring with a goal he started and finished on 21 minutes.

Dispossessing Joey Barton of the ball deep in Burnley territory, Martial sprinted forward, passed to Ander Herrera, then took an excellent return ball before beating Tom Heaton from six yards.

The second goal — just Rooney’s third in the league this season — on 39 minutes again showcased Martial’s talents as he took a Paul Pogba pass, had a shot blocked by Heaton then saw the ball break kindly for Rooney who scored via a deflection off Michael Keane.

“Yes,” said Mourinho when asked if Martial had responded as he wished following the manager’s midweek criticism of the French international.

“Of course, it was a very good performance by him — with the ball, without the ball, in defence, matched in the middle against two strong central defenders and without anyone just behind him supporting him.”

Burnley, who have lost their form at precisely the wrong moment, offered little threat to United aside from a free header which Ben Mee placed over the goal late in the first half.

In a dominant second half performance, City might have stretched their lead with Heaton saving well from Pogba’s low, long shot and Rooney and Pogba both shaving the post with late strikes.

The victory now sets up an intriguing Manchester derby visit to the Etihad on Thursday although Mourinho confessed that he will again rest and rotate players with an eye on the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo.

“I will rotate players again, give rest to some players again,” he said. “And let’s see what we can do.

“Of course it’s important to play in the Champions League but this club wants trophies. We have a 25% chance to win the Europa League and have to put everything into it we can.”

Pogba, who limped out of the game in injury-time with a muscle injury, is likely to be rested against City and Mourinho also issued a challenge to Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to come back from their injuries and give in-form Eric Bailly some time on the sidelines after his recent run of games.

“If I was Smalling or Jones, I would play Thursday with everything. I wouldn’t accept one guy to play nine matches in a row,” he said.

“If they have a crazy mentality like I have, they would play. If they’re safe-thinking and surrounded by people with the same mentality as they have, they will be more cautious and it would be more time. If it was me, nobody would stop me playing.”

Defeat leaves Burnley in real danger of being dragged into the relegation picture at the foot of the table in the final weeks of the season although manager Sean Dyche remained confident.

“For us the challenge is getting points on the board and we’re still in good shape, despite all the odds,” he said.

BURNLEY (4-4-2):

Heaton 6; Lowton 7, Keane 6, Mee 5 (Tarkowski 46, 6), Ward 6; Boyd 5 (Gudmundsson 61, 6), Barton 5, Hendrick 6, Brady 6; Gray 6, Barnes 6 (Agyei 75, 5).

Subs not used:

Flanagan, Defour, Westwood, Pope.

MAN UNITED (4-3-3):

De Gea 6; Young 7, Bailly 7, Blind 8, Darmian 6; Herrera 6, Fellaini 7, Pogba 7 (Carrick 90); Lingard 6 (Rashford 70, 6), Martial 9 (Mkhitaryan 80, 6), Rooney 7.

Subs not used:

Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Shaw.

Referee:

A Taylor 7

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