Manchester United 3 Burnley 0: It's no easy ride for United but Dimitar Berbatov sets champions on their way to win

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.

Dimitar Berbatov

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.

Wayne Rooney

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.

Mame Biram Diouf

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.

Brian Laws

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.

Manchester United staying ahead

‘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

Alan Hansen: Carling Cup derby presents real dilemma for under-performing United

Sir Alex Ferguson definitely made a mistake by letting Carlos Tévez leave Manchester United last summer.

But the same will not be said of Roberto Mancini if he manages to get rid of Robinho.

The contrast between the two players is vast, but while Mancini would be well advised to try to offload Robinho before the transfer window closes, his decision to substitute the Brazilian just 51 minutes after putting him on against Everton has merely made it more difficult to sell him.

It was a show of strength by Mancini, a move which will have hammered out the message 'big name, so what?’ to everybody at Manchester City, but it served only to magnify Robinho’s flaws.

At £32.5 million, Robinho has unquestionably been a bad buy. He is a super-deluxe luxury player with all the talent in the world but, when the going gets tough, he just doesn’t want to know.

He was the wrong side of woeful at Tottenham last month and he was just as bad against Everton. The Premier League is the toughest league in the world and opponents will always get stuck in and, quite simply, Robinho can’t hack it.

His performances have been unacceptable, both to his team-mates and his manager. They will have caused strife within the dressing-room because he is City’s highest-paid player, somebody who is earning an absolute fortune, and he just isn’t delivering.

I would sell him as quickly as I could, but City won’t get anywhere near what they paid for him and I don’t see any club out there, certainly not in England, who would want to take him.

Being substituted as a substitute is as bad as it gets, but it could easily have happened to Robinho before now.

Tévez is the polar opposite, though. He does not have Robinho’s ability by any means, but whether you put him on at the start or with 10 minutes to go, he will never give less than 100 per cent.

His recent performances have been terrific and, considering that and Manchester United’s form without him, you have to say that Ferguson was wrong to let him go.

When he writes his memoirs once he has left Old Trafford, if Ferguson is asked whether he was happy to lose Tévez, I think it is certain he will admit that he wanted to keep him.

But when you hear about United’s proposed bond issue and the financial problems facing the club, then maybe the money required to sign Tévez was just too much.

The fact that United invested just over £2 million in total on Michael Owen and Mame Biram Diouf to fill the gap left by Tévez says it all.

Sir Alex hasn’t even looked at players in this transfer window because he has nothing to spend, but he needs reinforcements more than ever because it’s not as though United are 10 points clear of the pack and cruising.

Every other top team in the Premier League has played well this season.

Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Spurs and Aston Villa have all impressed at times, but United have been poor all through, yet they are second in the league. The one thing they have in their favour is that, while they have been bad at times, they have never been quite so bad as City have been at Spurs and Everton.

It is still impossible to call Tuessday’s Carling Cup semi-final between City and United, though. City need a response following the Everton defeat, while United must perform better than they did against Burnley. They may have won, but they were awful again.

There is no doubt that City will be sensing a real opportunity to swing the balance of power in Manchester in their direction. They have the finances to strengthen and improve, while United need to strengthen but don’t have the money.

Sir Alex will know that United will end up with nothing this season if they continue to perform so poorly and that’s why he has a dilemma going into the City game.

Does he go with the kids or does he field his best team to try to spark a return to their best form? Whichever way he goes, there is no guarantee that it will be the right solution.

Gillingham Want Manchester United's Brandy

After struggling down at the lower end of the Coca Cola League One table with an absolutely awful away record, Gillingham manager Mark Stimson is hoping to minimise his woes with a good bit of brandy.

And also a good bit of Febian Brandy, the talented 20-year-old striker on loan at the Gills from Premier League champions Manchester United.

The England under-20 international has formed a formidable partnership with key player Simeon Jackson, the Canada forward currently courting interest from the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa, according to various media reports.

The star striking duo have been instrumental in Gillingham's strong home record at the krbs Priestfield stadium, with Brandy having a big impact in his loan spell at the club so far.

He has scored twice in nine league appearances for the struggling Kent club, as well as making several assists for teammate Jackson, and winning numerous penalties.

Febian Brandy is due to return to Old Trafford in the next few days, but Gills boss Stimson hopes he can reach a deal with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson regarding the player.

"We've put a call into Manchester United to see if we can extend the loan," said Stimson, speaking to Kent Online.

"It was a long shot to get him to the club in the beginning and we surprised a few people by bringing him here."

However, the Gillingham supremo also expects there to be competition from other clubs in League One and the Championship for Brandy's signature.

"He's enjoyed his time here and hopefully we can extend it. I would have thought one or two others will be looking at him."

Rio Ferdinand tipped for Manchester United return at Manchester City

Rio Ferdinand is set for a surprise return to action in Manchester United ’s Carling Cup semi-final first leg against local rivals Manchester City , according to a report in The Daily Star this morning.

Ferdinand has not played for Manchester united since the defeat at Liverpool in October due to a back injury that had restricted him for much of 2009.

The 31-year-old central defender has played seven games for in 2009/2010. Ferdinand will be hoping to prove his fitness in the second half of the season to secure a spot in Fabio Capello’s England World Cup squad.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly hoping to field Ferdinand alongside Nemanja Vidic who has been injured since just prior to the shock home defeat to Leeds in the FA Cup.

The first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final takes place at Manchester City ’s Eastlands ground on Tuesday night.

Mame Biram Diouf's dream debut

The last time United signed a relatively unknown centre-forward from Norwegian side Molde FK, it turned out to be an extremely shrewd piece of business. Is it possible Sir Alex has struck gold yet again in Mame Biram Diouf?

Like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Senegalese striker’s arrival at Old Trafford was decidedly low-key. And on Saturday against Burnley, Diouf continued to mirror Ole’s early OT career by netting on his home debut.

Diouf, sent on for Wayne Rooney on 73 minutes, put the icing on the cake of United’s 3-0 win, stealing in during injury time to head over the onrushing Brian Jensen at the Stretford End.

“It feels good to score in my first game here,” he told MUTV. “I was nervous for the first two or three minutes but then you forget about all the people in the stands and you do your job.”

Diouf’s debut came last weekend at St. Andrew’s, where he was handed a late cameo in the Reds’ 1-1 draw. And he insists he’ll give his all whenever Sir Alex selects him next.

“I’m just going to work hard and do my best and we’ll see when the manager needs me. I’ll be ready, though.

“I want to give my best for my new team and be ready when they needme. I’ll work hard in training, never give up and be ready for the next chance that comes along.”

The 22-year-old, who scored 23 times in 52 games for Molde in Norway, says he’s keen to work closely with United’s other forwards.

“I’m sure I can learn [by playing alongside Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov],” he said.

“They are top players, some of the best in the world. They’ve done so much in football and in this league so I’m going to try and learn a lot.”

"I want to give my best for my new team and be ready when they need me. I’ll work hard in training, never give up and be ready for the next chance that comes along."

Mame Biram Diouf

Diouf celebrates his goal in style, by balancing upside down on the corner flag

Mame Biram Diouf pips Brian Jensen to the ball to head in his first United goal

Wayne Rooney steers in the all-important second goal

Dimitar Berbatov beats Brian Jensen to put United into the lead

A pumped-up Rooney celebrates his 15th league goal of the season

Manchester United 3-0 Burnley

Second half goals from Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and Mame Biram Diouf gave United a hard-fought win over Burnley, but the Reds were frustrated for long periods against a spirited visting side eager to impress new manager Brian Laws.