On United's loss against Norwich
It just had to happen, didn’t it? Five straight wins, many of them coming from behind. 8 wins from losing positions this season so far; 5 in the Premier League, 3 in the Champions League. When United went behind again in the second half against Norwich, Norwich fans celebrated like there was no tomorrow. Perhaps that was because they half expected United to bounce back or perhaps they were too stunned to believe what they were witnessing.
At any rate, even after falling behind, most pundits and indeed the commentators were expecting that familiar United response which, of course, never came. The law of averages does catch up, you know. Even to Manchester United.
Looking at the starting line-up, this chronicler can safely say that he felt that something was amiss. For a start, Ryan Giggs starting did not really seem right. The few times that he has played this term, he has looked average, at best (with the possible exception of the League Cup game against Chelsea). On paper, van Persie and Hernandez did look a formidable pairing, the pair of them being the top two scorers for Manchester United so far this term.
However, the most jarring aspect of the line-up was not so much the inclusion of any player but the omission of one; a certain number 10. While van Persie has been taking all the plaudits this term, and rightly so, Wayne Rooney has quietly but most efficiently gone about his business. He has sailed under the radar so to speak, so much so that his contribution has gone quite unnoticed in many quarters. Today, it was most evident.
There was the midfield and then there was the forward line. There was hardly a link. Valencia has been terribly off-color this term and that showed no signs of changing. He routinely got into great positions and routinely wasted his chances by quite simply taking way too long to get the cross in. He is becoming a little too predictable and if watching him on TV is this frustrating, one can only imagine how frustrated his teammates would be.
Ashley Young was industrious and tracked back but again, when it came to delivering that final ball into the box, he was found wanting. Carrick was his usual effective self and played the neat game but again, when the team as a whole fails to deliver, he is made to look ordinary.
At least the defence held up quite well and it is a welcome relief to have Chris Smalling back. Lindegaard could do pretty much nothing about the goal but was quite alright otherwise. Evra and Rafael were caught out of position more than once and were quite lucky to not have given more away.
Credit where it is due, though. Norwich were organized, well drilled and excellent. They came in with a game plan and stuck to it. They were full value for their money and thoroughly deserved their win against an average United team.
So this game confirmed what many fans, this chronicler included, feared. United’s famed powers of recovery is good and all that but United would rather not have to use it at all. However, the defence still seems to be coming together and it looks like more goals will be leaked. If that is indeed the case, then there is but one way that victory can be assured: score more goals than the opposition.
To do that, United need to get the balance in midfield right; and more importantly, they need to get Wayne Rooney fit again.