Beaten but they do us proud

Last updated : 04 December 2002 By Tony Scholes

There were suggestions on Saturday after the defeat at Watford that we would almost certainly play worse and win but tonight we played better, far better, and still lost. It is fair to say though, and with no disrespect to Watford, that we were up against one or two better players than we had been three days earlier.

Much was said about what the Manchester United line up might be, in the past Alex Ferguson has fielded very inexperienced teams in this competition. Tonight though the starting line up included a very experienced back four and two strikers in Ruud Van Nistelrooy and the very much in form Diego Forlan. Not only that he included an insurance policy on the bench just in case it was needed with Ryan Giggs, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Scholes.

But tonight is not about Manchester United but about the Clarets who for long spells in the first half gave one of the country’s top teams one hell of a rough ride. We didn’t go out there and play against them as if we were a lower division side but went out and played football, we passed the ball about and with any luck at all would have got ourselves in front.

Robbie Blake twice got down the left and crossed low for Gareth Taylor, the first with less than a minute gone, and Taylor came so, so close to finding the net.

There was no repeat of the slow start we saw against Spurs and the already noisy Turf Moor was lifted by a superb start by the Clarets. It’s all about ifs and buts but if we could have just got ourselves in front then who knows what might have happened.

Unfortunately we were hit just ten minutes before half time as Forlan raced clear and slotted past Marlon with ease. The crowd screamed for offside but it wasn’t with Fred West playing on the Uruguayan.

It took a top save from Roy Carroll to prevent the Clarets drawing level before half time as he tipped over a header from Taylor and we had to go in at half time a goal down. There is no doubt that we deserved to at least be level and could have been in front at this stage but it was the same score at half time as it had been in the Spurs game.

It was Ralph Coates in that last round against Spurs, tonight it was Willie Morgan making the half time draw and what a reception the former Scotland winger received from all four sides of a packed Turf.

He had spoken earlier in the day about his days at Turf Moor back in the sixties, speaking highly of Harry Potts and Jimmy Adamson. It was good to see him back.

The second half saw the first part of the insurance policy introduced with Solskjaer coming on for Van Nistelrooy but for the Clarets the second half was not to live up to the first forty five minutes.

We played well, continued to pass the ball around well but Manchester United somehow looked stronger with the lead. Anything can happen though with just one goal to pull back and just after the hour we had our best spell of the half as we pressed forward for an equaliser.

That spell though was broken by a second United goal and I would suspect had Marlon got a hand anywhere near Solskjaer’s shot then we would have been recalling Nik Michopoulos in readiness for Saturday. I’m not so sure Marlon had a chance to move so powerfully was the shot struck.

The game really was up at that point although, despite my pleas, we did not go for damage limitation. Stan used all three substitutes and changed system to try and get back into the game but in truth it was never going to happen. At least though they didn’t add a third because that would have been more than rough justice tonight.

So the newspapers will report that we have gone out of the Worthington Cup with a 2-0 defeat but they will never be able to tell just how much each and every player did us proud. They gave us everything.

It is so much easier to say than do but if we could transfer that sort of form to the league games then we would be pushing right at the top. Make no mistake we gave them a scare tonight during that first half.

I’m going to choose Glen Little as my man of the match simply because he caused them a lot of problems in the first half but it could have easily been any one of the other players. Steve Davis was outstanding at the back whilst Gareth Taylor had an excellent game up front. But nobody had a bad game, nobody let us down.

There were a good number of Burnley fans on the Turf tonight who probably haven’t been on all season, I just hope they have seen enough to come back. The support was excellent but no more than the players deserved and it would be good to see another bumper crowd on Saturday giving them the same level of support.

Going out of a cup competition cannot ever be described as coming on a good night. But the Chairman’s happy because he has made some much needed money, Stan is happy despite giving away a bottle of wine and everyone gave their all tonight on and off the field. We cannot ask for more than that.

The teams were,

Burnley: Marlon Beresford, Dean West, Steve Davis, Arthur Gnohere (Alan Moore 72), Graham Branch, Glen Little, Paul Weller, Paul Cook (Tony Grant 57), Lee Briscoe (Dimitri Papadopoulos 66), Robbie Blake, Gareth Taylor. Subs not used: Mark McGregor, Ian Moore.

Manchester United: Roy Carroll, Phil Neville, Wes Brown, David May, Mikael Silvestre, Luke Chadwick, Michael Stewart (Paul Scholes 58), John O’Shea, Danny Pugh, Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 45), Diego Forlan (Ryan Giggs 76), Subs not used: Ricardo Lopez, Lee Roche.

Referee: Neale Barry (Scunthorpe).