United prepared for the imminent arrival of Alexis Sanchez as Anthony Martial's early second half goal earned a hard-fought win over out of form Burnley. It was the Reds fourth consecutive victory and clean sheet of 2018 and put us - albeit only briefly - nine points behind City, who re-established their twelve point cushion later in the day.
Clear cut chances proved few and far between during the opening 45 minutes. Paul Pogba hooked over the bar having been released by the recalled Ashley Young, whilst Burnley centre-backs Ben Mee and James Tarkowski both went close with headers from set-pieces. Young, who returned to the side in place of Luke Shaw after a three-match ban, then slalomed his way into the box and flashed a shot wide, and Martial fired wide after neat link-up play with Pogba five minutes before the break.
The first half had proved frustrating and largely unproductive, but the visitors had ended it strongly and the decisive moment came nine minutes after the resumption. Romelu Lukaku, impressive throughout, demonstrated superb hold-up play as he beat Mee to the ball, turned Tarkowski and picked out the onrushing Martial in space. The young Frenchman did not have much room to work with, but he wrong-rooted Clarets keeper Nick Pope and fired in a clinical finish via the underside of the bar.
Burnley responded well to going behind as Johann Berg Gudmundsson struck the top of the bar with a free-kick. De Gea saved well from Mee's header, Gudmundsson's whipped cross clipped off Smalling and the Clarets then had an optimistic appeal for a penalty turned down with United now at full stretch.
The Reds remained a threat on the counter-attack, though, as Jesse Lingard shot wide from distance, Lukaku nodded off target and Pogba was crowded out by the solid Burnley backline.
Ashley Barnes and substitute Sam Vokes were both narrowly off target with a pair of headers, but Pope was the busier of the two keepers and denied Martial superbly with a one-handed stop to prevent the match-sealing second. Despite five added minutes, the Reds comfortably saw the game out - aside from one Vokes header that failed to trouble DDG.
Overall team performance: 6.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Anthony Martial. In a solid all-round team performance, Martial's moment of quality made the difference. 50 million down the drain