Why Man United’s victory over Norwich City is a promise of better things
Man United had too much in the locker for newly-promoted Norwich City as the Red Devils romped home to a 3-1 victory over Daniel Farke’s side at Carrow Road in the Premier League on Sunday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men came into the game on the back of a 1-0 victory over Partizan Belgrade in the UEFA Europa League but the visitors were under pressure to put an end to their four-game winless streak in the Premier League.
Failing to win a single away game in the Premier League since February, United were far from favourites against a Norwich side that had arguably pulled off the biggest upset of the season last month with a 3-2 victory over reigning champions Man City.
Solskjaer went into the game with his preferred 4-2-3-1 system, with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James all starting together up top for the first time in over one-and-a-half months. Fred was given the nod over Nemanja Matic to partner Scott McTominay in the midfield pivot while the backline was all the same.
In the end, United came out on top comfortably and never gave Norwich a chance to have any sort of control over the game. The visitors put up a dominant display and completely outclassed the opposition despite Rashford and Martial both failing to convert their respective spot-kicks in the first-half.
One might argue that a victory over a promoted side in the Premier League should be a norm rather than an anomaly for a club of Man United’s stature but it is the manner of the victory more than the victory itself, that is likely to bring a smile on the faces of the club faithful.
As a matter of fact, the victory was a lot more than just three points and the fans definitely have a lot of positives to take from a convincing performance that was arguably United’s best of the campaign so far since the 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea on Matchday 1 in August.
While almost all the players came away with varying degrees of credit from what was a solid all-round team performance on Sunday, it was the delicious link-up play between the likes of Martial, Rashford and James up top that was a balm for the sore eyes to savour and admire.
It might sound like an overstatement but the way the three players complemented each other and worked in tandem to rip the opposition apart was reminiscent of the Man United of the previous decade.
James, who had started on the left-hand side of the attack in the previous rounds, shifted to the right to make way for Rashford, with Martial starting as the No.9.
However, all three players showed a great deal of understanding between them and switched positions frequently to cause all sorts of problems for Norwich.
After McTominay scored the opener with a well-taken strike from inside the box, James showed an excellent piece of vision and execution to pick out the run of Rashford through the middle with a fine lofted pass, and the England international put away his chance with minimal fuss.
The third goal in the second half was an even better one as Martial and Rashford combined with a slick exchange of passes in the final third before the Frenchman rippled the net with a clinical finish to put the game to bed.
Over the last month-and-a-half, United have lacked cohesion in the attacking third, with the likes of James and Rashford finding themselves isolated for large quarters with no genuine creative threat from open play.
However, with Martial back in the playing eleven on Sunday, the Red Devils had a touch of conviction about the way they attacked and the whole system looked like a well-oiled unit perfectly suited to the demands of some lovely one-touch football.
Martial’s return to form couldn’t have come at a better time for United and United certainly look more of a threat in terms of scoring goals when the Frenchman is a part of the starting eleven.
Solskjaer hasn’t been able to put forward his best eleven on the pitch early in the campaign due to injuries to some of the key players, but Sunday’s victory was a reminder that United are not that bad after all, particularly when they have James, Martial and Rashford playing up top. Add Paul Pogba to that group and the line-up looks so much better.
Notwithstanding the fact that the No.10 position continues to be a major weak link that the Red Devils would need to address sooner than later, Man United can certainly look forward to better days if the front three continue their heroics and the defenders hold their own, as they did so well against Norwich.
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With some presentable fixtures against Bournemouth, Brighton, Sheffield United and Aston Villa coming up before difficult games against Man City and Tottenham in December, Man United should look to capitalise on their 3-1 triumph ]and string together a good run of results in a bid to get their tottering campaign back on track.