ZLATAN Ibrahimovic might have coped admirably with everything the Premier League has had to throw at him so far, but then he’s not been to Turf Moor yet.
That will change on Sunday when the 35-year-old heads to East Lancashire with Manchester United hoping to avoid becoming the latest big club to be slayed by Burnley in front of their own fans this season.
The Clarets will be bidding for an 11th home league win of the campaign at Fortress Turf Moor and in the process they will seek to keep United’s star names such as Ibrahimovic and world record signing Paul Pogba quiet.
Those two could take a salutary lesson from the last time United were in these parts when Angel Di Maria made his much anticipated bow in English football. He struggled to shine at Turf Moor and his 70 minutes on the pitch became a metaphor for his disappointing spell at Old Trafford.
Clarets midfielder Scott Arfield, who played in that goalless draw two and a half years ago, believes it takes more than just technical ability to succeed against Burnley at Turf Moor.
“He only signed three days before or so, I remember that,” the 28-year-old said of Di Maria’s debut.
“You could see his technical ability but that only takes you so far,”
“Fantastic players can switch it on and off but it’s a different thing when you come here, it’s a mental block for some people with the fans on top of you and the high press we play, and the noise levels, it’s a completely different mental attribute.
“But they’ve played in massive games against massive teams on massive occasions, I don’t think they’ll be phased too much but we’ll take any slight advantage and any one per cent, ultimately that can win you the game.”
United wouldn’t be the first big side to struggle at Turf Moor this season.
Of the current top seven Liverpool and Everton were beaten, Chelsea could only draw, Arsenal were fortunate to grab a 96th minute winner and Manchester City had to come from behind to win 2-1.
Burnley’s home record has been remarkable this season and they have relished making Turf Moor a tough place to come.
Tom Heaton and Michael Keane recently returned from England duty with words from fellow Three Lions squad members on what a gruelling experience facing the Clarets on home turf is and Arfield believes that is a huge compliment to the side.
“That’s what we were saying after it, we’ve created a culture that is hard to play against first and foremost and it enhances with the fans behind us,” the Canada international said.
“If it was a training game, 11 v 11, it would be the same thing with the structure the manager has instilled and the 4-4-2, it’s so hard to break down with the banks of four and the wide men into a back six at times and putting it in for the team.
“I think it speaks volumes when you’ve got top class professionals and players that are saying that at the highest level.”
Two years ago Burnley won just four times in front of their own fans, a record they have obliterated this season with three home fixtures still to go.
They have already collected 13 more points and scored nine more goals and Arfield, a veteran of the 2014/15 campaign, said the Clarets had learnt to make more of home advantage from that season.
“Two years ago I don’t think we put that in our favour as often as we should have,” he said of gaining a psychological advantage at Turf Moor.
“This season I think the mental side of that has come and the belief has come as the season has rolled on.
“Even without the away victory the performances have enhanced after Christmas and certainly at home we’ve been a force to be reckoned with.
“On the mental side of that we’ve had to look for the one per cents and we’ve really gone on to be successful and hopefully we can get over the line sooner rather than later.”
Arfield also believes the Turf faithful have had a major part to play in that home record this season, helping to roar the Clarets on in times of need.
“It’s been brilliant,” he said. “Ever since I joined, through the seasons we have just got stronger and stronger towards the end, particularly this one.
“Because we’ve not managed to get those wins away from home it enhances the atmosphere when we come back because we’re so strong at home.
“We’re still awaiting that elusive away victory at this moment in time but I don’t think it’s far away.
“The fans have got a massive backing in that. When teams come here, when you speak to anybody outside Burnley, it’s a horrible place to come to try and play with our high pressing and how we play the game.”
The Clarets lost just twice at home in last season’s Championship-winning campaign and they have been beaten just four times in their last 39 home league games, by Swansea on the opening day of this season, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.
“We’ve had 10 victories at home this season and all the way through the Championship last season, bar a couple of results, we were so strong at home as well,” Arfield said.
“It’s not just this season that it’s happened it’s just that this year we happen to be doing it in the Premier League which makes it more magnified. We’re certainly very happy with what we’ve done.”
United could be the latest team to feel the Turf heat, and Arfield expects a strong Red Devils selection despite Jose Mourinho’s side being in action in the Europa League last night.
“I think they’ll play their strongest team, I don’t think that’ll be in question,” Arfield added.
“Obviously with the quality at Man United you know you’re going to be in for a massively tough game.
“With us at home we fancy ourselves against anyone, certainly with the way we’ve been playing there.
“We’ve had the performances to go with the results in the last couple of weeks as well. It’s all standing us in good stead for this fixture on Sunday.”