Three things we learnt from Man United’s 3-2 win over Norwich City

Saturday 12th of March was Manchester United’s last win in all competitions, things looked on the up after another hectic 3-2 win over Antonio Conte’s Spurs, but since then, United have been struggling. Now though, maybe things will be different. A massive, albeit tight 3-2 win over Norwich City at Old Trafford yesterday may well be the result that turns the tide of a difficult season for everyone at the club.

A fantastic Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick, including his first free-kick goal for United in a decade, won the game, the jubilation when Ronaldo’s fantastic freekick hit the back of the net seemed significant.

Problems remain within the team, United’s susceptibility to conceding silly goals remain, Norwich who have now scored a quarter of their away goals in the league at Old Trafford this season, were causing United issues early on. A Teemu Pukki effort was kept out well by the onrushing David De Gea.

The game looked dead and buried for the away side, when Cristiano Ronaldo rose highest to double United’s lead, after a tap in for the opening goal by the Portuguese, which was brilliantly set up by Anthony Elanga.

United were dominant during the first half, but Norwich scored either side of half-time first through a Kieran Dowell header at the back post after poor defending from the hosts and then Teemu Pukki, Ronaldo’s fantastic free-kick settled an enthralling and hectic encounter.

The win for United miraculously keeps the Red Devils’ top-four hopes alive, although a trip to Anfield may well remove the small amount of hope that United fans have remaining, in what has been a disastrous season. Here are three things we’ve learnt from United’s frenetic win yesterday.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo is not the problem

Ronaldo has been involved in a constant and consistent hounding out for being the supposed problem. His 60th career hat-trick against the league’s bottom side brought his tally for the season up to 15. Whatever happens with the new management, Ronaldo has been far from the problem this season.

The Portuguese talisman scored a hattrick in United’s last win against Tottenham and he did it again against the Canaries. A large percentage of Ronaldo’s goals have been when it has mattered the most, the player singlehandedly kept United in the Champions League, despite the circumstances of their elimination against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. The group stages were tough for United but in the seven games he featured in he scored six goals in Europe’s premier competition.

Whether Erik Ten Hag, the reported chosen one for Manchester United, likes Ronaldo or not, one thing remains, Ronaldo is far from finished.

2. Defensive problems remain

United never looked fully comfortable despite being two goals up approaching half-time, when Kieran Dowell got one back for the visitors, a sharp sense of inevitably was painted on United’s supporter’s faces. 44 goals conceded in the Premier League this season, which is the second-highest amount in the top 10 of the division (Leicester City in 9th have conceded 48 goals in the league this season).

The defensive frailties of this side remain, the blame shouldn’t fall at the door of one player in the back four, the defence as a collective were at fault for both goals, despite the public sway against £80 million man Harry Maguire, who wasn’t the only defender at fault. For the Canaries’ opening goal, Maguire and Dalot were caught out, as Pukki was allowed to run in behind the statuesque defence. Pukki’s cross should have been dealt with better by Alex Telles, but the Brazilian let Dowell go who had an easy tap in past De Gea at the back post.

Victor Lindelof and Telles were caught out again when Dowell, played in Finnish striker Pukki and beat De Gea at his near post to make it 2-2. The miscommunication from the defence on whether to press Dowell, who was in the hole or to stand off him, allowed Pukki to be played in with acres of space, something that has been a problem all season for United, and will be something that any prospective new manager must deal with promptly going into next season.

Speaking after the game, Rangnick was not best pleased with United’s defending: “The 2-0 lead should’ve made life easier for us, but it didn’t because we didn’t defend well. Both goals we should’ve defended much better and David de Gea kept us in the game with a brilliant save.”

3. United playing without a ball-winning midfielder did not work

When the team news dropped at 2:00 pm yesterday afternoon, eyebrows were raised when United lined up with a midfield three with Paul Pogba at the base of a three. The Frenchman was flanked either side by Bruno Fernandes and the soon-to-be out-of-contract midfielder Jesse Lingard.

The experiment looked to be going well after 32 minutes when United were 2-0 up and looking comfortable.

But the lack of defensive awareness in midfield was exposed massively, especially during Norwich’s equaliser when Dowell had time to look up and pick out a pass when an out and out defensive midfielder would have snuffed that out. United folded after conceding and struggled to regain control of the game.

Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata were brought on, which turned out to be pivotal during the game. The added security of the Serbian Matic, who has announced that this will be his last season in the red of United, was crucial for Rangnick’s side.

Rangnick won’t make the same mistake again, as United’s next game is the small matter of quadruple chasing Liverpool. The need for a defensive midfielder is stark, with the club looking for a number six to make that position his own, one thing is clear, Paul Pogba is not the answer to United’s defensive midfield problems.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: