sport news are unrecognisable from team that lost to Burnley last January

Most of Old Trafford had emptied but those who stuck it out until the bitter end stayed only to boo and jeer.

The mood was mutinous, not only because of the anti-Glazer protests that had been planned but because had just lost at home to Burnley for the first time since 1962.

It was a thoroughly miserable afternoon for a beleaguered United team and it looked like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's brief and disappointing reign as manager was nearing its end.

Manchester United's players look thoroughly dejected as they are beaten 2-0 at home by Burnley on January 22, 2020. They were booed off the field by angry fans

's players look thoroughly dejected as they are beaten 2-0 at home by Burnley on January 22, 2020. They were booed off the field by angry fans 

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Those fans at Old Trafford who didn't leave early stayed behind to jeer the players off

Those fans at Old Trafford who didn't leave early stayed behind to jeer the players off

The situation looked increasingly bleak for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with United some 30 points behind rivals and champions-elect Liverpool at that time

The situation looked increasingly bleak for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with United some 30 points behind rivals and champions-elect Liverpool at that time

Since that Burnley loss 

's record in all competition since the 2-0 home defeat to Burnley on January 22, 2020: 

52 games, 34 wins, 9 draws, 9 losses

They finished third in the Premier League last season but have lost four semi-finals since then.  

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That 2-0 defeat was United's eighth in the Premier League alone and it was only January 22. Their most effective striker, Marcus Rashford, was out with a double stress fracture in his back, while their most expensive signing, Paul Pogba, was sidelined too.

Solskjaer had claimed his United team was 'making strides' after a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool a few days earlier but the club icon was fooling nobody. Losing to Burnley was a fresh low. Liverpool sat 30 points and a brutal gulf in class in front.

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And yet, as United prepare to play Burnley once again on Tuesday night, Ole is still at the wheel, his team are purring and, astonishingly, they have the opportunity to move above Liverpool and top of the Premier League.

For the first time since the Alex Ferguson years, United actually look like they might challenge for the title. Victory at Turf Moor in this game in hand would take them three points clear of Liverpool ahead of a showdown at Anfield this Sunday.

Nobody who witnessed United's capitulation to Burnley on that bitterly cold January night last year could have predicted such an impressive transformation in fortunes.

Now the mood at Old Trafford has been completely transformed with Solskjaer's side looking increasingly like genuine title challengers this season

Now the mood at Old Trafford has been completely transformed with Solskjaer's side looking increasingly like genuine title challengers this season

Solskjaer has overseen a considerable improvement in the almost 12 months since that loss

Solskjaer has overseen a considerable improvement in the almost 12 months since that loss

United will move top of the Premier League if they win their game in hand against Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday night. They then head to Liverpool on Sunday

United will move top of the Premier League if they win their game in hand against Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday night. They then head to Liverpool on Sunday 

It's tempting to conclude that the signing of a certain Bruno Fernandes - who arrived from Sporting Lisbon a week after that Burnley debacle - has made the entire difference for revitalised United.

Certainly the £47million signing's contribution of 27 goals and 17 assists in 47 matches for United has been hugely significant. But it would be unfair on the work Solskjaer has done to simply pin it all on one player.

Fernandes has certainly given Solskjaer a talismanic figure to build everything else around and his star quality has impacted on everyone else in United's attack, presenting them with more chances to score.

The Portuguese playmaker has also been crucial in overcoming what had become a mental block for United - how to break down opponents who massed players in defence, especially at Old Trafford.

Fernandes wasn't cheap but he has been the key to unlock the door in so many games since his arrival. United now find a way to break through, more often than not.

Bruno Fernandes, signed a week after that Burnley debacle, has transformed the team

Bruno Fernandes, signed a week after that Burnley debacle, has transformed the team

27 goals and 17 assists from Fernandes have helped United become title contenders this year

27 goals and 17 assists from Fernandes have helped United become title contenders this year

Man United fixtures 

Premier League unless stated 

Tuesday Burnley (A)

January 17 Liverpool (A)

January 20 Fulham (A)

January 23/24 Liverpool (FA Cup)

January 27 Sheffield United (H)

January 30 Arsenal

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