Burnley fire five past Sheffield United and push Paul Heckingbottom to the brink

Paul Heckingbottom
Paul Heckingbottom employed a spot of gallows humour after the match, saying he almost joined in with fans' songs criticising his side - Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

The possibility of Paul Heckingbottom ending the Premier League’s uncharacteristically slow start to its annual managerial sack race grew exponentially with every excruciating set-back at Turf Moor.

Striker Oli McBurnie certainly did not help the cause, sent off in first-half injury-time for a petulant second yellow card that spoke of chronic ill discipline.

That lack of composure was also evident as United conceded straight from the kick-off, Jay Rodriguez becoming, in the process, the first player in Premier League history to score in the opening 15 seconds on two separate occasions.

But it was Heckingbottom who bore the brunt of criticism, with sections of his own supporters expressing their disapproval of him towards the end of Burnley’s largest top-flight victory, since beating Nottingham Forest by the same scoreline in 1970.

“I’ve had this now since the beginning of September,” said Heckingbottom. “But the one thing I can say is I can walk out of this stadium with my head held high.

“I know how hard I work for everyone at the club. I won’t change, I’ll make sure the staff do the same. But, as I said the first time I was asked this, you’re asking the wrong person.

“Of course if fans start changing, it changes the dynamic. It doesn’t change how I feel or my job. I just said to the players in there, I can walk out with my head held high but you can’t kid people.

“The fans are right to shout, say that wasn’t good enough. I was almost singing along with them at one point.”

Heckingbottom, appointed for a second spell in charge of the club two years ago this week, was already feeling the pressure after last week’s emphatic home defeat by Bournemouth.

So, conceding before one of his players had even touched the ball, was not high on Heckingbottom’s wish list. But, as James Trafford found Zeki Amdouni, that is precisely what happened.

Charlie Taylor’s cross let Rodriguez, who had scored after 13 seconds for Southampton against Chelsea almost exactly 10 years ago, ghost ahead of Auston Trusty and head in tidily.

Jay Rodriguez
Jay Rodriguez scores his second career Premier League goal inside a game's first 15 seconds - Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes

After 28 minutes, the contest looked over as Dara O’Shea’s long ball put Jacob Braun Larsen clear of Luke Thomas to score from 15 yards.

And McBurnie compounded the disaster on 36 minutes when he was shown a yellow – which Vincent Kompany certainly felt should have been red – for elbowing O’Shea.

The Burnley manager earned a booking of his own for dissent, as did O’Shea for retaliation on McBurnie soon after, but the United striker finally saw the red he seemed intent on collecting, in first-half injury-time, when he elbowed the same defender for a second time.

“I’ve nothing against the lad, it’s a competitive game and he puts his body on the line every single game but in that moment, I got booked, Dara O’Shea got booked,” said Kompany. “That moment didn’t feel right.”

“He’s let me and the team down. He knows it,” added Heckingbottom.

Oli McBurnie elbows Dara O'Shea
Oli McBurnie was sent off for elbowing Dara O'Shea not once but twice - Chris Kavanagh Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes

It was such a discordant display that Heckingbottom, who had been forced into one first-half substitution due to injury, felt moved to make three at the interval – meaning half of his starting outfield players had been replaced inside 45 minutes.

But there was little sign of improvement, either in performance or attitude. On the contrary.

Burnley threatened repeatedly until a late deluge, three goals flying past Wes Foderingham in the space of seven minutes, starting with Amdouni scoring his side’s third on 73 minutes.

Taylor and Jordan Beyer capitalised on United’s failure to clear their lines, the latter seeking out Amdoui who finished from around eight yards.

Burnley’s skilful attacking players were now playing with abandon and Amdouni soon hit a post before his pass was collected by Luca Koleosho who beat the beleaguered visiting keeper at his near post.

Finally, the rout was complete when Josh Brownhill struck from the edge of the visitors’ area after yet more unconvincing defending and a poor clearance from Trusty.

Burnley's Josh Brownhill celebrates scoring their side's fifth goal of the game
Josh Brownhill completes the rout at Turf Moor by scoring Burnley's fifth against Sheffield United - Martin Rickett/PA Wire

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