A strong second-half display helped Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Burnley keeping them on the shoulder of league leaders Chelsea.

The Clarets had held the hosts for the first-half and missed a string of good chances of their own before Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney put United ahead with two goals in quick succession.

And youngster Mame Diouf added a third at the death to put an undeserved sheen on the scoreline.

With hindsight the moment the game changed was when Clarets striker Steven Fletcher was forced off after an ugly, unpunished tackle from Antonio Valencia.

All Burnley’s play had flowed through the £3 million man and though his replacement Steven Thompson was a handful for United’s makeshift defence, Burnley’s attacks didn’t have the same thrust once Fletcher was taken off.

Fletcher had missed the game’s best chance early on after a swift Burnley counter-attack saw him facing returning United keeper Edwin van der Sar. Chris Eagles had found David Nugent with a fine pass forward and Nugent sprung Fletcher clear with an excellent quick ball across the pitch.

But Fletcher’s first touch was heavy and although the chance was on his favoured left foot, he dragged it wide of the far post when he should have hit the target.

Nugent himself missed an even better chance when through on goal and Burnley’s debutant manager Brian Laws would later rue his side’s poor finishing.

United dominated possession but did not create any clear chances with Burnley keeper Brian Jensen mostly untested. Nani’s overhead kick was pushed aside comfortably while the giant Dane collected everything else that came his way.

But in the second half United’s quality told. Berbatov and Rooney both missed good chances – Berbatov hitting the outside of the post – before the opening goal finally arrived on 64 minutes, just after Nugent had spurned another fine chance for the visitors after holding off Jonny Evans.

Rooney found Berbatov in the area and the former Spurs striker fired in via a deflection off Clarets defender Michael Duff. It was a generous sliver of luck that United would not have gone on to win the game without.

But Sir Alex Ferguson’s team always take advantage of slight flukes and quickly doubled their lead, sealing the points. Jensen could only parry Berbatov’s shot and Rooney was on hand to slot in the rebound after waiting for the right moment.

It was harsh on Burnley who probably deserved something from the game, and they were cruelly denied a consolation goal when Thompson’s header struck the post.

And United had a third in stoppage time when Jensen raced off his line to try and intercept Valencia’s long ball forward, only for substitute Diouf to nod the ball past him and into the empty net.

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