The psychology of taking the lead against Man Utd

One aspect of Burnley’s victory over Man Utd which has not, to my mind, been discussed is the psychological boost it could give other teams.

Man Utd, if behind in a football match, would simply attack, attack and attack. The opposition’s defence would get deeper, ultimately concede and defeats which were on the cards would be turned into draw or victories. There was almost a belief that the equalising goal would inevitably happen. As a viewer I feel the same way; I expected Man Utd to score at least once. The game against Aston Villa last season is prime example of how this mentality can also affect teams which should have more self belief. 

Burnley, having hung on under immense pressure might have gone some way to shatter the defeatest mentality which all teams have when playing Man Utd. However, one other aspect will come into play when teams find themselves in a similar situation. Man Utd are not the same Man Utd that created the fear – they a without two very important creative players. Whilst they have replaced Ronaldo and Tevez the aura has not be replicated.

Andrew Strauss, Englands cricket captain, mentioned that the Australians, minus McGrath, Warne et al did not carry with them the same aura. The feeling of inevitability often contributes more to the actual result that the performance of either side. If both teams expect one result then that result will happen. One expects that Man Utd will need to be defeated in a similar way once again before the image finally falls but Burnley have shown to the rest of the Premier League that the inevitable result is not so inevitable.


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