Manchester United moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League after a Paul Pogba goal gave them a hard-fought 1-0 win over Burnley at a freezing Turf Moor on Tuesday.
The victory, in the re-arranged fixture, put United on 36 points from 17 games with rivals Liverpool on 33 points ahead of the clash between the two sides at Anfield on Sunday.
The breakthrough came in the 71st minute when Marcus Rashford floated in a ball from the right which Pogba met with a volley that deflected off the outstretched leg of Burnley defender Matt Lowton and beat the wrong-footed Nick Pope.
It is the first time United have been top of the league after 17 games since December 2012 and the victory was their seventh in eight games away from Old Trafford.
While United did not create as much as they would have expected against a team in 16th place, it was a determined and aggressive display from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
“We had to dig in and earn it and we did,” said the United manager.
“We feel very confident going into games. Away from home we have really done well. We have to believe in ourselves and we do. We’ve done a great job, it’s good times. It’s a test against the champions (on Sunday) who have been fantastic, that’s a great test for us,” he said.
United skipper Harry Maguire had an effort ruled out in the first half after referee Kevin Friend ruled he had pushed Erik Pieters as he rose to head in a Luke Shaw cross at the back post.
Burnley applied some late pressure and felt they should have had a penalty when the ball appeared to hit Maguire’s arm. James Tarkowski had a great chance to grab a point for the Clarets but failed to make good contact from a goalscoring position.
United should have wrapped up the win in the final minutes but Anthony Martial, through on goal, was denied by the legs of Pope.
Burnley, were gritty and aggressive but Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool side at Anfield will offer a very different prospect.
“Of course we know we’re going to the champions they’ve had an unbelievable three seasons so we’re ready for it. But we’re ready and we’re excited, we’re hungry for it and it’s a test of character and quality again. We’re in a good position going into it,” said Solskjaer.