DAN BURN has claimed that facing Manchester United was like a return to playing Conference football with Darlington.
The Fulham defender, who arrived from the Quakers in 2011, said he was ‘happy’ to defend against the Premier League champions as it reminded him of his time playing at The Northern Echo Arena.
During such time, Burn worked under former Quakers skipper Craig Liddle, who was mainly responsible for bringing the young defender to the North-East club, before guiding him through the youth system.
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Liddle said: “I watched him on TV on Sunday and I thought he was brilliant. Obviously United were sending in a lot of crosses which suited Dan down to the ground.
“He has always been strong in the air – as you’d expect with someone of his height. But I also thought his positional play was excellent. Overall I think he had an outstanding game.”
Liddle, who made more than 300 appearances for Darlington, always believed Burn had huge potential, which was why he took him from Blyth as a teenager.
As Darlington's youth team coach, Liddle was told to go and take a look at him by scout Les Wray. After the pair went to watch England Boys' Clubs at Durham City, Burn went on a pre-season trial and was soon offered terms.
He said: “Straight away I could see that he had that rawness about him – he had the right ingredients and attributes to make it. He was left-footed and very comfortable on the ball, but most of all he was always such a willing learner.”
Such ability led to his Premier League switch to Fulham in 2011 after making just 14 appearances for his home club. The deal involved a £350,000 initial fee with future incentives – including a further £75,000 after the defender made his Fulham debut against Norwich last month in the FA Cup fourth round.
Experienced defender Alan White, who played alongside Burn in his time at Darlington in League Two before relegation, also stated that he was not surprised by the young defender’s success.
He said: “As a kid, his technical ability was superb. He was quite skinny back then and not as strong, but you just knew that if he kept that technical ability and pace that he had, as he grew older he would become a top player.
“He’s still only young, so there’s plenty more to come. And I hope for his sake, as well as Darlington’s, that he achieves his potential. He’s a great lad: he still visits home regularly and everyone who knows him says he hasn’t changed a bit, so I wish him all the best.”
White added: “I just hope Darlington have plenty of clauses in his transfer deal so they can keep getting the rewards for him. Even small cash injections would be huge for the club.”
Burn admitted that United’s tactics, branded ‘straight-forward’ by Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen, played to his strengths as his towering height enabled him to deal with the majority of United’s crosses.
The 21-year-old, who later insisted that he did not mean for his United comments to come across as they have in the media, said: “I’ve never headed that many balls since the Conference. We knew that was going to happen and I was happy for them to play like that. I’m six-foot seven. It helps when dealing with those sorts of balls.”
Burn, who battled at the heart of Fulham’s defence to help earn a point in a 2-2 draw, helped deal with United’s record number of crosses before the Red Devils succumbed to former Sunderland striker Darren Bent’s equaliser in injury-time.
Fulham remain bottom of the table but the point at Old Trafford has given the Cottagers a lift, in what is one of the tightest relegation battles of Premier League recent times. The side will be hoping to build on this weekend’s result with a difficult trip to Liverpool on Wednesday.
Burn, from Blyth, is learning quickly on and off the pitch having been thrust in to the Premier League spotlight – and that was shown by the way he felt he should play down his post-match comments.
In an interview he did with the Fulham website last night he said: “I didn’t mean that quote to sound as disrespectful as it’s been reported. There were a lot of crosses, statistically more than any game since stats started, so I just joked that I hadn’t headed as many balls since the Conference.”