Manchester United moved to within nine points of Premier League leaders Manchester City, at least temporarily, with a 1-0 win away to Burnley on Saturday.
A superb strike from Anthony Martial early in the second half was enough to give Jose Mourinho’s side a fourth victory in a row in all competitions, despite a lacklustre overall display.
The goal, Martial’s ninth in the league this season, was the highlight of a game low on quality and sent a timely reminder to manager Jose Mourinho ahead of the suspected arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal.
United fought back to claim a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture in December and they looked similarly out-of-sorts for much of the contest at Turf Moor, in which they managed no shots on target until Martial’s 54th-minute strike.
Burnley, who have only won once against United in 25 meetings, looked a threat in their pursuit of an equaliser, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson hitting the crossbar with a free-kick and Ashley Barnes missing a header.
United, without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is expected to join Arsenal as part of the Sanchez deal, survived the closing stages to make it four wins and four clean sheets in 2018 and put some pressure on City ahead of their meeting with Newcastle United later on Saturday.
The incident sparked the game into life. Pogba wagged his finger with displeasure at Jack Cork as the tackles flew in and the Frenchman was eventually booked for bringing his nemesis down with a tackle from behind.
Burnley defender Phil Bardsley, formerly of United, was also cautioned for leaving his foot in on Smalling.
Burnley had a great chance to level when Gudmundsson fired across goal from the left and Barnes threw his body to try and make contact only for the ball to fizz by his outstretched boot.
Marouane Fellaini was sent on to see the game out and United resisted despite Burnley throwing goalkeeper Pope up for a couple of late set-pieces. It wasn’t pretty but they are collecting points in a very Mourinhian way. And Sanchez to come.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Burnley (4-4-1-1): Pope 6; Bardsley 6, Tarkowski 6, Mee 6.5, Taylor 7; Gudmundsson 7.5, Cork 6.5, Defour 6, Arfield 6 (Nkoudou 81, 6); Hendrick 5.5 (Vokes 81, 6); Barnes 6.5 (Wells 89)
Unused subs: Lindegaard, Long, Lowton, Westwood
Bookings: Mee 30, Bardsley 67, Defour 70
Manchester United (4-1-4-1): de Gea 6; Valencia 6.5, Smalling 6, Jones 8, Young 7; Matic 6; Lingard 6.5 (Rashford 80, 6), Pogba 7, Mata 5.5 (Fellaini 72, 6), Martial 6.5 (Herrera 90); Lukaku 6.5
Unused subs: Romero, Marcos Rojo, Shaw, McTominay
Goal: Martial 54
Bookings: Pogba 70, Matic 77, Valencia 90
Referee: Mike Dean 6.