Manchester United vs Norwich Match Review
Kevin Ruddy produced a scintillating display in his 50th premier league appearance to help Norwich City hold on to a 1-0 lead, courtesy Anthony Pilkington. Norwich looked the better team through decisive periods in the game and came out as deserved winners. They are now unbeaten in their last six games. United, on the other hand, lost their grip as league leaders as Manchester City romped their way home with a 5-0 win over Aston Villa.
United clearly lacked the necessary creative spark and guile and clearly missed Wayne Rooney who sat out injured. Javier Hernandez, who was assured a place in the starting XI by Sir Alex, failed to reproduce the form he had been showing in his recent goal scoring run. Robin Van Persie was assigned the job of playing in the hole behind Hernandez and failed to make the impact that a certain no.10 would generally have on a United away game. Lindegaard was given a start in place of the in-form De Gea, and Ryan Giggs was given some much needed game time as he looked to out pass Norwich alongside Michael Carrick.
Norwich came into the match boasting of a string of clean sheets with the defensive partnership of Michael Turner and Sebastian Bassong working wonders. Organization was the key, and they stuck to the plan to perfection. There was an air of positivity around Carrow Road as Norwich passed the ball swiftly with precision and looked to play out of tight situations, encouraging signs for any mid table team. Hoolahan started the game behind the captain Grant Holt, and was impressive from the word go.
It was United though, that pressed on in search of an early goal, and with a tight Norwich defense, looked for some dazzling wing-play and set-piece situations to find some sort of penetration. Robin Van Persie tested Kevin Ruddy with a low shot that brought out a good save from the English Keeper. Ashley Young then fired in a free kick from 25 yards which Ruddy dealt with easily. United piled on the pressure with some corner kicks and nearly scored when Patrice Evra failed to direct an easy header, instead glancing past the far post. Ryan Giggs tried to find the ever-prowling Hernandez, but the Norwich centre backs kept the United poacher at bay.
Norwich looked to play on the counter attack, and did break a couple of times. United’s fragile defensive reputation encouraged the home team to fire in crosses at will and Robert Snodgrass should have converted a Hoolahan cross in the 24th minute. Another counter attack saw the wing back Garrido with acres of space fire a cross in that failed to meet any one of his team mates, with a fuming Holt looking on.
With decent periods of possession, Norwich looked to be more of a goal threat than the away side.
Robert Snodgrass and Hoolahan left Evra for dead with some clever link up play, with the sSot then running at Rio Ferdinand leaving him with twisted blood, only to scuff a cross that Holt and Smalling pounced at, the young English defender effectively clearing the ball.
This system worked like a charm as Norwich finished the game with 11 goal attempts to United’s 14, which was clearly disapproving of the possession stats where Manchester United hogged most of the ball with 68% possession.
The end of the first half was all United as that all important first goal eluded them. The 39th minute saw Ryan Giggs pick out a stellar ball to find Robin Van Persie who went for the spectacular and failed at a scissor kick.
United then won a corner in the 41st minute and it was a brilliant defensive header from Wittinger that fell right into the path of Ashley Young. Young took a crack at goal, extracting a fine save from Ruddy who looked to be on song.
The second half began brightly for Manchester United as they looked to test Kevin Ruddy again. Ashley Young set up RvP with a cleverly lobbed through pass but the Dutchman had a go at Ruddy’s near post which was easily saved by the Norwich No.1.
A supposed dive by Johnson over Giggs’ lazy foot didn’t convince the referee Anthony Taylor and United broke again. Giggs released Hernandez with a long ball asking a bit too much from the pacy Mexican as Ruddy bravely strode forward outside his penalty box to clear the ball into the stands.
Norwich’s defensive resolve in the centre drove United to the flanks constantly. But Antonio Valencia’s surprisingly poor decision making and reluctance to play the early ball meant United barely tested Ruddy after a good early start to the second half.
Giggs and Carrick failed to assert any sort of dominance over the middle of the park and Hoolahan and Pilkington revelled in the space provided to them.
Pilkington’s perseverance was rewarded when he rose to meet a perfectly guided cross from wing back Garrido to head home what was to be the winner. Lindegaard stood no chance; the header was perfectly placed at the far post.
The recent trend would only dictate United to concede first, but a comeback was on the cards, especially when they have done so eight times already. But it was not to be.
Sir Alex did try and change things by removing Valencia and the struggling Hernandez for the creativity of Paul Scholes and the physicality of Danny Welbeck.
The 74th minute presented the best chance for United to claw their way back into the game when Danny rose to meet an Ashley Young cross only to just place it past the far post.
Paul Scholes began to pull the strings as United drove into an ultra-attacking mode. Rio Ferdinand was pulled off for the vibrant Anderson and Norwich found themselves with all 11 men behind the ball, desperately holding on to that 1-0 lead and a possibility of 3 precious points.
Morrison replaced Holt, Howson replaced Hodaham to deal with the flurry of crosses from Ashley Young’s right foot.
Howson then missed what was the chance of the game when Carrick’s shot deflected off a Norwich defender and flew back into the path of Morrison who played Howson into a one-on-one situation with Lindegaard only to whack it wide.
Injury time was frantic with another substitution with Bennet on for Snodgrass. Ruddy produced yet another top quality save when a set piece situation involving a Bassong deflection required him to react instantly. He followed it up with another great save when he held onto a powerful shot shielding the ball from the alert Paul Scholes who lurked around for a tap in.
With the final whistle , Carrow Road rejoiced as the club celebrated its first victory over United since 2005. Ironically, the goal scorer was a former United trainee at one point in his career, and the crosser for that goal, an ex-Manchester City player.