Tom Cleverley helped Manchester United to a 1-0 victory over Norwich City at Carrow Road
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The second game in three days brought another 3 points for the reds in what was at times, a war of attrition. Norwich made life difficult for United and on another day may have taken something from the game. The introduction of Danny Welbeck at half time brought some much needed pace and urgency to a forward line that failed to create much. It was Welbecks quick reaction and calm in front of goal that secured a 1-0 win.
The lack of Wayne Rooney, out with a groin strain left United without the man who had made us tick in recent weeks. We can only hope he will be available for the visit of Spurs on New Year’s day.
Here we look at the talking points of the game at Carrow Road and invite comments/opinion from both sets of fans.
No Rooney Means No Urgency Up Top
The big news pregame was that Rooney had not traveled with the squad to Carrow Road. After his positive influence in the last few games and the lack of Van Persie still up front, this was a big concern to many reds. The prognosis appears to be that it is a minor groin strain that shouldn’t rule Rooney out of the Spurs game next week.
In Rooney’s absence it was Hernandez up top as the target man supported with Kagawa, Young and Giggs behind. Hernandez is very good at running the line and finding those gaps in the box but as a single target man he struggles, this was very evident in the first half. Giggs started as the man behind Hernandez with Kagawa on the left but both were ineffectual in creating anything for the Mexican to feast on. It was only when Kagawa moved inside in the last 10 minutes of the half did United start to look a threat going forward. The only positive was the continued ‘decent’ form of Ashley Young who looks so much more confident in recent weeks. Young has been running at full backs and tried to inject some pace going forward. In the absence of others he deserves credit for this improvement and hopefully it will continue.
Welbeck replacing Giggs at half time was necessary and credit to Moyes for identifying the issue, responding quickly and turning the game. Welbecks influence allowed Hernandez more freedom to stretch the Norwich back line and Young continued to forage down the wings. It was pressure from Welbeck and Hernandez on the Norwich defence that resulted in the opening goal. Welbeck charged down an attempted clearance and reacted to the ricochet from Hernandez to confidently round Ruddy and slide the ball into the empty net.
Whilst Welbeck added a target and work rate in the final third, United still looked unlikely to create a second goal. Against a side like Norwich that wasn’t a major issue however Spurs may take better advantage if Rooney and Van Persie fail to recover.
Lack Of Support Leaves Evra Exposed
Patrice Evra hasn’t been in the best form for the last 18 months but has shown glimpses at times of rediscovering his form. In the first half he was left exposed time and time again to the runs of Snodgrass by the lack of support from Kagawa and Giggs. It was only some resolute defending from Evans and Vidic plus the continued excellence of De Gea in goal that kept Norwich off the scoresheet. The biggest concern regarding Evras defending was his lack of timing and judgement in the battle with Snodgrass. On numerous occasions he was drawn in by Snodgrass only to be left trailing as he went past him. Evra improved in the second half with the change of shape but as we look for the transfers that may occur in the summer, could it be Evra looks nervously over his shoulder?
Demands On Carrick/Cleverley Highlight The Desperate Need For Reinforcements
The Christmas period is the most strenuous time of the season with games coming quick and fast. The lack of options in midfield has been exposed here more than any other time even with the unexpected return of Darren Fletcher. Michael Carrick looked lacking in match fitness here yet completed a full 90 minutes and Tom Cleverley also played 180 minutes inside 3 days. As we try and keep players fresh that’s a situation that does nobody favours in the long term. Cleverley looked drained early and his recent promising form suffered a dip after some good efforts against Villa and Hull.
The return of Darren Fletcher has been timely mainly so we haven’t had to use Anderson or Giggs. Fletcher though can only seriously be a back up at this stage in his recovery from the bowel condition that has blighted the last few years.
If United are to truly challenge for anything more than the Champions League places then at least 2 central midfielders are required to provide proper competition and depth to our biggest hole.
The biggest points from today are I feel
- The emergence of Danny Welbeck as a talisman and threat in front of goal
- The need for cover in midfield is desperately needed
- The team are showing a resilience and will to win that was missing in the early part of the season
The team head into New Year there or there abouts as hoped, it’s important now they kick on and don’t let the good results of recent weeks go to waste.
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