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.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang provides update after return to Arsenal for heart tests
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has confirmed he’s “absolutely fine” after returning to London for health checks.
The Arsenal forward was away at AFCON with Gabon when he experienced some heart issues.
A scan revealed possible issues after Aubameyang tested positive for Covid 19 in the lead up to the tournament.
The Gunners recalled the 32-year-old, who is currently not being selected by Mikel Arteta following a disciplinary breach.
Aubameyang has taken to social media to share that he is “completely healthy” following further tests.
He said on Instagram : “Hi guys, I came back to London to do some additional checks, and I’m very happy to say that my heart is absolutely fine and I’m completely healthy!! Really appreciate all the messages over the last few days and I’m already back at it”
Gabon boss Patrice Neveu revealed that Arsenal were keen to get their player back once news of his possible issues broke.
He said, as quoted by Sky Sports : “What I know is that they’ve been Covid free for the last 72 hours. We couldn’t arrange an MRI for them, and as a result they couldn’t train.
“It was really annoying for them to stay in their rooms. We made the decision yesterday with the President and under pressure from the clubs too, because they’re worried so that [Aubameyang] should go back to Arsenal and Mario [Lemina] back to Nice.”
Despite Mikel Arteta’s recent shunning of the forward, Neveu did admit that it was the club’s right to recall their player.
Aubameyang is currently out of the first team picture as his future remains up in the air.
AFCON 2021: Nigeria to play Tunisia in Round of 16
Nigeria will take on Tunisia in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16.
This was confirmed on Thursday, following the completion of all group games in the competition.
The Super Eagles finished top of Group D ahead of Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.
The Carthage Eagles lost 1-0 to Gambia in their final Group F clash.
Nigeria’s match against Tunisia will be played on Saturday, January 23.
Kick off is 8pm.
Novak Djokovic in talks to sue Australian government for ‘ill treatment’
Novak Djokovic is discussing with lawyers about suing the Australian government for £3.2million for “ill treatment”.
The unvaccinated tennis star, 34, claimed he had a visa exemption but was deported before the Australian Open.
The damages of £3.2million includes the £2.3million prize money the world No?1 tennis player expected to have won.
According to The Sun, a source close to his agent Edoardo Artladi said: “It’s well known that Novak and his family feel he was poorly treated in the quarantine hotel in Melbourne.
“His mother revealed how it was full of fleas and maggots. He was kept a virtual prisoner.”
Lawyer Toma Fila added: “He was subjected to humiliating treatment. He should sue.”
Djokovic is back home in Belgrade, Serbia.
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