Erik ten Hag thinks Manchester United are unlucky but they are making their own luck

United were involved in another thrilling game against Burnley but they are turning contests into a roll of the dice -Credit:2024 Manchester United FC
United were involved in another thrilling game against Burnley but they are turning contests into a roll of the dice -Credit:2024 Manchester United FC

Erik ten Hag has used this week to complain about the bad luck Manchester United have had this season, from an injury crisis that has rarely abated to perceived refereeing injustices that the Dutchman is starting to see in every game.

You can't quibble with the fact that United's injury record has made life difficult for Ten Hag this season, but his playing style is introducing the factor of luck into matches and when it is so prevalent against the 19th-best team in the Premier League then you have to consider a change.

United's midfield has been a source of encouragement for the opposition since the autumn, taking an approach so committed to attack and getting numbers forward that they are regularly exposed when going the other way. As is so often the case in United games the opposition racked up the shots, enjoying that no man's land between a deep defence and an attack pressing high.

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United only spent a few days in Las Vegas in pre-season but they have played with the addiction of a compulsive gambler all season. They can't resist the adrenaline buzz of a helter-skelter contest in which the outcome is often in doubt until the very final kick, but it's not putting the odds in their favour. Their games are becoming crapshoots, where luck plays too big a role.

While the best teams - see Manchester City and Arsenal - dominate games by pinning the opposition back and playing the game in their half, or even around their penalty area, United are turning every fixture into an entertaining and open encounter. It offers too much encouragement to opposition even at the level of Burnley.

Staff in the Clarets camp had this week pointed to two behind-closed-doors wins against United during the season and were confident they had the tools to cause Ten Hag's team some trouble. Vincent Kompany and Co were right.

Antony's goal - from a Sander Berge mistake - looked like the toss of the coin would fall in United's favour this time, but when you roll the dice you have to be prepared for any outcome. Andre Onana's mistake evened it up and only Ten Hag could really argue that this wasn't a fair result.

It had been five successive games in which United had both scored at least twice and conceded at least twice, producing a level of drama that was both engrossingly watchable and unnecessarily stressful for a team of this ability.

That pattern might have come to an end against Burnley but it was more through luck than judgement. There were enough chances in the first half alone for both teams to have scored twice.

Alejandro Garnacho and Antony wasted good chances for United while Bruno Fernandes rattled the post. David Fofana and Lyle Foster would both have felt they should have scored at the Stretford End. That it was goalless at the break was down to some brilliant goalkeeping from Andre Onana and some poor finishing.

The game didn't change after the break. Burnley had their moments on the counter, regularly working three-on-three breaks and just lacking the quality to be ruthless with them. United started to get more of an outlet through Garnacho, who forced Arijanet Muric into an excellent save, but the threat wasn't consistent and when Garnacho chucked himself to the ground in the penalty area with 15 minutes to go it was a sign they were running out of ideas.

In the end, the idea was presented to them and Antony took the chance well. But United have thrown away leads all season and Burnley deserved something from the game. It was another rollercoaster ride but judging by the boos at full-time, supporters are ready to get off.