The security guards who gathered outside the directors’ entrance at Old Trafford served to indicate the growing tension at Manchester United while on the field the Premier League champions continue to keep their heads above water.
These are strange, stressful times for United. The details of the club’s financial plight that emerged last week have served to re-energise those fans who want rid of the ruling Glazer family.
At a meeting of supporters on Saturday morning, chief executive David Gill emerged as a target for the disaffected.
Crucial breakthrough: Dimitar Berbatov fires home United's first goal
As he watched from the directors’ box Gill, who some believe should have resigned when the Glazers plunged United into debt in 2005, may have hoped for something to distract the fans.
All Sir Alex Ferguson’s team managed, however, was another unconvincing showing against a Burnley team who could have caused an upset on another day.
Ferguson will look to accentuate the positives, of course, as he heads into a Carling Cup showdown with neighbours Manchester City at Eastlands on Tuesday. He is right to do so.
United scored three times without playing well on Saturday, never a bad habit, and remain handily placed in three competitions.
Eye for goal: Wayne Rooney scores United's second goal at Old Trafford
At the start of the season, Ferguson would have taken this. He would, however, have expected his team to be playing a little better.
Only a goal from Dimitar Berbatov midway through the second half settled United down. Until then it was anybody’s game as Burnley played brave, confident football under new manager Brian Laws.
Flipping marvel: Mame Biram Diouf celebrates in style after sealing victory over Burnley
Asked if he felt there had been some nervousness among United’s players for his team to exploit, Laws was interestingly candid.
Laws said: ‘We felt that if we counter-attacked with pace it has been evident in recent weeks that United have found that an issue. They were a bit nervous and that is credit to our players.
‘Their fans always want that first goal. They want it after five minutes. And the longer it goes, the more restless they get. I felt they were very restless until that first goal came. That was a key turning point in the game.’
Laws was right. Although United enjoyed plenty of possession, Burnley had the two best chances of the first hour as Steven Fletcher shot across goal early on and then David Nugent broke clear but shot disappointingly wide on the hour.
Minutes later, Berbatov scored, his left-foot effort deflected up and over goalkeeper Brian Jensen off Michael Duff. Then Wayne Rooney converted the second after Jensen could not hold another shot from Berbatov and the game was over by the time Senegal substitute Mame Biram Diouf scored on his home debut at the end.
Ferguson said: ‘The Nugent chance was probably the key moment for them. If they had scored then it would have been something for them to hang on to.
Tough start: New Burnley boss Brian Laws
‘That gave us a wee bit of a gee- up and the crowd got up and when the crowd get up it makes a difference to our game. We were very frivolous with our chances and they missed three opportunities.
‘They had breakaways when they were through on the goalkeeper and it could have been embarrassing for us.
‘Maybe we were a bit anxious, a bit nervous about our game but you need that first goal to break open teams like that. At the end of the day, a 3-0 scoreline might be a bit unfair on them but I don’t think it is unjustly unfair.’
While United remain in the hunt for the title, Burnley need to break a long sequence without a win to stay out of the relegation zone.
There were certainly some positive signs and if they’d had a proven goalscorer this result could have been different. Laws will try to buy one this month but will also seek to tighten up some of his team’s play.
He said: ‘The way we play is very cavalier. It is pleasing to the eye but you have to slow the game down a bit more and keep possession a bit longer. They are the things that we are going to work on. That is how we are going to survive in this division.
'Being cavalier will not give you enough points.’
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): Van der Sar 7; Neville 6, Brown 6, Evans 6, Evra 5;
Valencia 7, Carrick 6 (Anderson 65min, 6), Scholes 6, Nani 6; Rooney 7 (Diouf 73, 7), Berbatov 7 (Owen 73, 6).
BURNLEY (4-1-4-1): Jensen 6; Mears 6, Duff 7, Edgar 7, Jordan 6; Alexander 7; Nugent 6, Elliott 7, McDonald 6 (Gudjonsson 73, 6), Eagles 7 (Blake 83, 6); Fletcher 6
(Thompson 36, 6).
Man of the match: Antonio Valencia