The last couple of weeks or so have certainly been turbulent for the Clarets with the departure of Owen Coyle and the whole of his backroom staff to Bolton. His last game in charge was against MK Dons in the FA Cup third round at the stadium: mk on the 2nd January and that match seems like ages ago now with snow and ice then crippling the subsequent league fixtures including our home game against Stoke City last Saturday which had to be postponed. It is probably just as well that match was postponed with the club at a low ebb. Steve Davis and Phil Hughes were supposed to be in charge of that game and a day later it was announced they too had jumped ship and would be following Coyle to Bolton. A battered & bruised club then announced Martin Dobson with the help of Pashley, Alexander and Caldwell would be in temporary charge as they continued to interview for a new manager and prepared for our match this Saturday against Manchester United at Old Trafford. What a great time to be playing the current League Champions!
A few days later though and we knew who our new manager would be as Brian Laws, our former player and ex-manager of Sheffield Wednesday was unveiled. Laws is now preparing for the baptism of fire at Old Trafford assisted by his second-in-command, Russ Wilcox and new player-coach, Graham Alexander. Dobson and Pashley will also be in the dugout this Saturday as they help the new team find their feet. It is clear also that Laws is looking for a new first-team coach with news filtering through this week that he had failed in his attempt to lure John Carver away from Plymouth.
Predicted Team Sheet
So here we are a team without an away win all season hoping to get our first double with a new manager at the helm. We also have to do it against the current League champions away from home with Manchester United currently 2nd in the table and Burnley struggling in 14th place just two points off the drop zone and no League win now in nine games. It certainly will be a baptism of fire but this is what dreams are made of especially for Brian Laws who one week ago was out-of-work having only last month been sacked by Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.
It will be interesting to see what approach Brian Laws takes for this game. Will he play safe and select Coyle`s likely eighteen and see what the baseline is like or will he experiment and bring in some changes to the team selection, formation or tactics? I suspect it could be the former in which case the likely eighteen could be as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Carlisle (if fit), Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, McDonald, Elliott, Fletcher, Nugent
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Edgar, Gudjonsson, Guerrero, Blake, Thompson
One player who won`t be available is Andre Bikey. The Cameroon international is currently out in Angola for the African Nations Cup and will have been disappointed this week not to have featured in the Indomitable Lions opener against Gabon. He would have been even more disappointed that Gabon achieved a shock victory by winning the match 1-0.
The Clarets will also be without our captain, Steven Caldwell who is still suffering from an ongoing groin strain and is likely to be out for another couple of weeks or so. He has not played since limping off at Molineux last month in our 2-0 defeat against Wolves. Clarke Carlisle was another player who limped off in that match with a similar injury to his groin. It is understood though he is close to a return so he could be in contention for the game at Old Trafford. If he is still not fully fit, this could be the chance for David Edgar to make his Premier League debut for the Clarets.
Chris McCann is also thought to be close to a return after recovery from a cruciate and medial ligament injury. He had targeted a return at Old Trafford and it will be interesting to see if Laws at least includes him on the bench. Martin Paterson may also be close to a return after progressing well from his torn cartilage injury and it is also understood that Jay Rodriguez could be in contention soon but is a few weeks behind the others.
Brian Laws confirmed in the news conference that he likes to play a similar style of football to Coyle and he also said he didn`t feel there was too much wrong with the team at the moment. I suspect there will be few surprises in his team selection or tactics for Old Trafford but it all makes for an interesting time. Our first double of the season against of all clubs, Manchester United would certainly get the fans behind our new manager and dispel some of the doubts folk have been having about the appointment.
Manchester United Team News:
Darren Fletcher received a red card for a second bookable offence in United`s last game at Birmingham last Saturday so he will be ineligible for the match against the Clarets and will have to sit out an automatic one match ban.
A knee injury to Dimitar Berbatov which kept him out of the match against Birmingham last week continues to be a problem and he looks doubtful for the clash against Burnley. Sir Alex Ferguson speaking about the injury after their game against Brum said:
“Dimitar wanted to play with it but we felt we should try to get it (the knee) sorted and get him fit again. He (Berbatov) may have to have an exploratory operation.”
Manchester United have a catalogue of injury problems most notably in defence but a number of these could be in contention for a return on Saturday. John O`Shea though who is suffering from a thigh strain is unlikely to return until next month and it is thought Owen Hargreaves still has a few weeks to go before he is fully recovered from ‘Jumpers Knee`. Keeper Edwin Van Der Sar is indefinitely sidelined with a knee injury but Ben Foster could be close to a return after picking up a back injury. Ferdinand and Vidic (Calf Muscle Strains), Macheda (hamstring) and Nani (ankle/foot injury) could also be close to having made a full recovery and might be available for selection this Saturday.
Player to watch: All of them especially Rooney
Manchester United may have a number of key injuries at the moment and by their standards going through a pretty bad patch but their depth in the squad is of course scary and with players like Rooney, Valencia, Giggs, Carrick, Scholes and Owen to call upon it is practically impossible to single out one particular player for attention so I won`t.!
Rooney though will be the major threat and with 14 league goals to his name so far this season will be a big test for the Burnley defence.
Burnley Team News:
Andre Bikey is away on international duty for Cameroon in the African Nations Cup in Angola and Steven Caldwell is sidelined with a groin injury. Laws may have options in the centre of defence depending on whether Clarke Carlisle has now fully recovered from his groin strain.
Both Chris McCann and Martin Paterson are also believed to be close to a return.
There is no news of any further injuries and we have no suspensions to worry about with Tyrone Mears and Steven Jordan both having sat out their one-match bans against MK Dons following their misdemeanours at Goodison Park against Everton.
Player to watch: Brian Jenson
News filtering through this week that Brian Laws could be considering a bid for Sheffield Wednesday keeper, Lee Grant will hopefully keep Jensen on his toes and he will be keen to impress his new boss in the match at Old Trafford. What better way than keeping a clean sheet against the Mighty Red Devils?
Back to the Future
We all know what happened in our last game against Manchester United in our first match at home in the top flight for 33 years! On that wonderful night back in August we stunned all the critics and pulled off a stunning 1-0 victory thanks to a superb goal by Robbie Blake. Burnley had returned and Fortress Turf Moor was born.
Back in 1975-76 though all those 33 years ago it was a different story, Manchester United would finish 3rd that season whilst of course Burnley would be relegated after finishing second from bottom. The Red Devils would enjoy a double over us that season. An opening goal by Hankin after 34 minutes in our match at Old Trafford on the day after Boxing Day 1975 would not be enough and United would score after 51 and 80 minutes to finish 2-1 winners. In our penultimate home game of the season, United would complete the misery by beating the Clarets 1-0 at Turf Moor thanks to a Lou Macari goal.
Wiltshire referee, Lee Probert gets to be in charge of this one.
Manchester United have wobbled in recent matches and don`t seem to be the force they used to be with even League One Leeds giving them a lesson recently at Old Trafford by beating them 1-0 and knocking them out of the FA Cup .Let`s be clear though in their last home game in the League they thumped one of our relegation rivals, Wigan 5-0 so let`s not get too complacent and cocky.
The Clarets have not won a League match now in nine games with their last victory against Hull City at Turf Moor back in late October. On the road, the situation has been grim with no win and only one point all season and we are now staring at the relegation places having just two points more than the third from bottom club. The club have been through upheaval thanks to the exploits of Owen Coyle and we now have a new manager in charge who has to quickly raise the team`s spirits and morale. What person in their right mind would predict a Clarets victory and our first double of the season under those circumstances away to Manchester United?
We will be making the trip to the Madejski Stadium to play Reading in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday 23rd January (NOTE:Kick-Off 12:45pm) after the Royals sensationally beat Liverpool at Anfield in the midweek third round replay. After that game Brian Laws will then have the chance to forever cement his affection in the hearts of all Clarets fans should they beat Bolton in the mother of all Premier League battles on the night of Tuesday 26th January at the Reebok (Kick-Off 8pm). Owen Coyle what have you done?