Manchester United ended 2021 with a comfortable win as they saw off Burnley 3-1 at Old Trafford.
Manager Ralf Rangnick made six changes to the side that were held 1-1 at Newcastle on Monday.
Scott McTominay handed the home side an early lead in an open contest, with a Ben Mee own goal and Cristiano Ronaldo tap-in putting them 3-0 up after 35 minutes.
Whilst Aaron Lennon got one back for the visitors before half-time, they showed few signs of a further fightback in the second half as United cruised to victory.
Here are five talking points from a strong end to a rollercoaster year for the Red Devils.
Central midfield has been a position which has sparked plenty of scrutiny at Manchester United in recent years.
But with United believed to be keen to dip into the transfer market this January to bolster their options, Scott McTominay sent a timely reminder over his qualities.
The Scot capitalised on a loose Cristiano Ronaldo touch to fire a precise strike into the bottom corner to give his side an early lead.
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And he was largely responsible for Ronaldo netting the third as his powerful long-range striker was superbly saved by Wayne Hennessey but dropped to his team-mates’ feet.
Aside from his involvement in the two goals, McTominay was a driving force in midfield and put in an excellent performance.
“Logical” strike partnership
Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo finally started together in attack after Cavani’s impressive cameo against Newcastle.
Explaining the selection ahead of the game, Ralf Rangnick said: “When Edi came on at half-time at Newcastle, not only did he score the equaliser but he also had another two great opportunities.
“He is in good shape so for me it was logical to play him and Cristiano together. Yes, the other changes are just due to the fact that we only played three days ago. It is all about energy and fresh legs.”
The “logical” decision to partner him with Ronaldo appeared to pay off.
The duo complemented each other well with their off the ball movement as United looked dangerous in attack.
Whilst there are question marks over Cavani’s future, United look a better side when he is on the pitch.
One of the first things Ralf Rangnick did after taking charge of United was to change his full-backs.
Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles both impressed in his first few games but, after struggling against Newcastle, were replaced by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw for the visit of Burnley.
Both made their attacking intentions clear early in the first-half having been restored to the starting line-up.
At one stage, Wan-Bissaka found himself on the left flank after a lung-busting diagonal run to support Jadon Sancho.
Moments later, Luke Shaw drove forward from his own half before firing a powerful shot into the side-netting and he played a key role in United’s second goal by winning back possession and setting Jadon Sancho free.
Defensively, Wan-Bissaka had some lapses late on but it will be fascinating to see how Rangnick decides to utilise his full-back options over the coming weeks.
Manchester United struggled to make inroads through the middle against Newcastle in their last outing.
That, coupled with the suspension of Bruno Fernandes, prompted Ralf Rangnick to opt for more width in his 4-2-2-2 formation.
Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood both started behind the front two, with Sancho on the left and Greenwood on the right flank.
Sancho in particular was lively and got himself on the ball out wide before cutting inside to deliver United’s second goal via a deflection off Ben Mee.
The big-money summer signing wheeled away in celebration but was eventually denied his first Old Trafford goal in the Premier League as it was ruled an own goal.
But he did himself no harm with a lively display as he continues to get to grips with a new system under Rangnick.
Both Sancho and Greenwood were given plenty of freedom to roam and, with Ronaldo and Cavani’s movement in front of them, contributed to United looking dangerous in Fernandes’ absence.
Maguire’s woes continue
Harry Maguire is one of plenty of United players to have come under-fire for their performances this season.
Whilst the result was never really in doubt for United, it was their captain who could again shoulder the blame for the goal they conceded.
Another Arsenal player leaves Emirates Stadium
Arsenal player, Daniel Ballard has agreed a transfer to Championship side, Sunderland.
The player, whose move to Burnley failed through last season, has also played for Swindon Town and Blackpool on loan.
The Northern Ireland international has not had the opportunity to play a single first team game for the Gunners.
And now his stay at the club is coming to an end as he is set for an imminent move from the north London side
The Athletic reports that Ballard was very close to joining Burnley last week, but a deal could not be agreed.
The likes of former club Blackpool and Sheffield United were interested in the player.
He is now on his way to Sunderland.
Despite never making the cut for Arsenal, Ballard has proved himself on the international stage, already picking up 15 caps for Northern Ireland and scoring two goals.
EPL: Leeds to replace Raphinha with Super Eagles forward
Leeds United are in the race to sign Moses Simon from Nantes, according to RMC.
The Premier League side are competing with another Ligue 1 side Nice for the Super Eagles forward.
With Raphinha in talks with Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona, Leeds are already looking for his replacement.
The Elland Road club is holding out for £65m for Raphinha and some of that income will be put back into the team.
Simon, 26, can play all across the frontline. He is right footed, although he played the majority of last season on the left wing.
The winger scored six goals and grabbed eight assists from 30 Ligue 1 games last season.
Boehly set to sign two Man City players for Chelsea
Chelsea are in talks with Manchester City over a move for both Raheem Sterling and Nathan Ake, the UK Telegraph reports.
Sterling is the Blues’ top priority this summer, with Thomas Tuchel eager for the club to sign the England international.
Although Tuchel wants to bolster his attack, he is also looking to bring in defenders following the exits of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
Chelsea have now turned to their former defender Ake as part of their summer rebuild.
Ake made his Chelsea debut back in 2012 and made 17 senior appearances for the club.
In 2017, he joined Bournemouth in a £20million deal having impressed on loan the previous season.
Following Bournemouth’s relegation in 2020, the Dutchman joined City in a deal worth £40million.
It is believed Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly contacted City on Monday to discuss their valuation of both Sterling and Ake with the Blues keen to sign both players.
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