ARTICLES Match Reports

Match Report: Norwich City 0 – 1 Manchester United

While Manchester United have been in far better form, at least from a results perspective as of late, with that only continuing with the Norwich City game having been completed, the performance left much to be desired.

In what was Ralf Rangnick‘s first away day as interim manager of Manchester United, his men put up, in all honesty, a mediocre performance but were lucky to come away with all 3 points, a necessity given how United’s season has gone thus far.

The game was decided by a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and David De Gea pulling off one incredible save after another to secure the clean sheet, and the victory at Carrow Road.

How the game unfolded

In stark contrast to United’s prior Premier League fixture, against Crystal Palace, where the Reds came flying out of the blocks, United were dominated for the starting portion of the game, continually swarmed by Norwich.

As the half progressed, United grew into the game more and more and it seemed like a relatively even contest. The team did relatively well to fashion some half chances but several moves broke down in embarrassing fashion in the final third.

That was something of the story of the match, moves breaking down to pathetic levels of sloppiness from the United players. There were 3 players in particular that seemed to have very poor games:

Firstly, is Marcus Rashford. One could quite convincingly make an argument that Rashford didn’t put one step right the entire game. His usual smooth and effective close control completely abandoned him as he seemed unable to do anything but lose the ball when running into any semblance of traffic.

His passes were improperly weighted regularly and it’s an absolute miracle that he was allowed to play the entire 90 minutes. He definitely doesn’t deserve to start against Brentford.

Moving onto Bruno Fernandes. Bruno had an absolutely nightmarish game. He didn’t contribute to one good thing that we did. Bruno was regularly attempting the “hollywood” pass (leading to United losing possession) instead of playing the simple pass which would’ve actually led to a more promising attack situation for United.

Another player that really has no business starting Manchester United’s next fixture against Brentford.

Finally, and probably one that many might disagree with, is Cristiano Ronaldo. Yes, Cristiano stepped up and took the penalty wonderfully to secure the 3 points, but his performance for the rest of the game and in open play was dismal.

Possession was lost by him experiencing some sort of tunnel vision and running into a mass of players. Passes were played sloppily. All in all, a night to forget for United’s #7. However, there can’t really be a case made for him not to start against Brentford yet, considering Edinson Cavani is still not match fit and Anthony Martial hasn’t rejoined training since picking up a knock in a prior training session. His partner, however, simply cannot be Marcus Rashford.

Mason Greenwood, the player we expected to be brought on to replace a faltering Rashford eventually came on in the 67th minute however, he was replacing Jadon Sancho, not Marcus Rashford, a fact that puzzled many a supporter, myself included. One has to hope this is Rangnick protecting Sancho to ensure his longevity for the duration of the remainder of the season.

However, Mason wasn’t able to put his stamp on the game. That said, his performance against Young Boys and the poor performance of Rashford means he is a prime candidate to start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo against Brentford tomorrow.

Many also hoped that Donny van de Beek would be introduced to replace the currently wasteful Bruno Fernandes much sooner than the 88th minute, which is when the substitution actually took place. We can only hope that, in light of Fernandes’ most recent performance, Rangnick allows van de Beek a rare Premier League start against Brentford as one of the #10’s.

In between the incoming substitutions of Mason Greenwood and Donny Van de Beek, Eric Bailly replaced Victor Lindelöf. The Swede was seen clutching his chest and breathing heavily, with David De Gea confirming that Lindelöf was experiencing a bout of breathlessness caused by a collision that occurred earlier.

In his post match press duties, Rangnick reassured the supporters that the medical team conducted their tests on Lindelöf and he seems to be okay. In any case, we wish good health and a speedy recovery to The Iceman.

While we have discussed the several negatives in the game, there are 2 players that I wish to single out for praise: David De Gea and Scott McTominay.

It’s not exaggeration to say that United collected the 3 points today in large part due to De Gea’s excellent shot-stopping display. The Spaniard made several crucial saves that earned him an elusive clean sheet and United the 3 points.

Scott McTominay passed in a far more progressive manner against Norwich. Instead of taking the routine safe option like he normally does, he was actively trying to make more challenging passes with the objective of getting the ball forward.

McTominay should’ve arguably had an assist after he played a brilliant pass to Ronaldo to create a wonderful opportunity which the Portuguese superstar unfortunately squandered.

A poor performance but a result secured

While the performance is something that Rangnick will scrutinize in depth to get the team playing better quality football, the result was vital and Rangnick’s Reds secured it. They need to continue in this vein and week by week secure points, especially at this stage of the season where the fixtures are not extremely challenging (on paper at least).

He has 2 allies that know him well now with him in the United dugout to help in Sascha Lense and Chris Armas, who was seen sitting in the United dugout for the first time at Carrow Road.

I hope Rangnick not only rectifies the performance and corrects errors on the training ground but also doesn’t show obvious partiality to certain members in the squad – something that previous managers were so obviously guilty of. For the sake of squad harmony and keeping all players on their toes.

Bring on Brentford.

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