Date: 2nd October 2011 at 3:15pm
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Hard fought victory

After such a breathtaking start to the season, it may be fair to say the sprint start has slowed up slightly this past week with a couple of unconvincing performances against Stoke and Basel in the Champion’s League, both games which could well have been lost, but ultimately were fortunate to come away with draws. Many had hoped there would be some respite with the visit of Norwich, a fixture that could have been seen by many as a “business as usual” game, but with others recognising the potential for an upset. Indeed for parts of the match the latter case could well have been the outcome, with another far from convincing performance, particularly defensively. Throughout the first half United struggled to create truly meaningful chances, and it could be said that a valiant Norwich deserved a goal or two themselves, unfortunate not to find the net on a couple of occasions. However, it was the Old Trafford faithful who went home the happier set, as the deadlock was finally broken when, after Nani and Hernandez made way for Giggs and Welbeck, Anderson popped up to head home from close range from Rooney’s head forward in the box. Despite this, the situation felt precarious but United wrapped up the 3 points when good play between Danny Welbeck and Ji-Sung Park led to a clean break for Park to unselfishly play across for Welbeck to finish and giving his side the 2 goal cushion going into the final stages of the match. It may be felt that the international break is well timed, as a chance to regroup before the big matches against rivals Manchester City and Liverpool in the coming weeks. So, with that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.

1) It was good to see Lindegaard get a game

With his “Cantona-esque” statement on how he was not at Old Trafford to pick his nose, it was a positive to see the young Danish goalkeeper, Anders Lindegaard, given his Premier League debut and to let Sir Alex Ferguson know that he is not to be forgotten. THe reason for De Gea’s absence was explained, in that De Gea has games for Spain coming up and with Lindegaard not having such priorities it was important to give him some game time. I believe it is important that he is given opportunities throughout the season, partly because as it is De Gea’s first, at such a young age the prospect of playing every match through a season may prove counter productive for some not yet used to the demands of the Premier League, and also because Lindegaard himself is clearly quite talented himself and is hungry to prove himself worthy as a main goalkeeper at United. Saturday’s game against Norwich proved to be a test, with the Canaries allowed through on more than one occasion, and he was perhaps lucky to come away with a clean sheet, particularly after a couple of fortunate deflections and shots off the post. But overall it was a solid performance, in which the defence in front of him did him few favours whatsoever.

2) Anderson – hot and cold

Part of United’s blistering start to the season was due to the blossoming midfield partnership of Anderson and Tom Cleverley. In recent weeks, however it could be said that the Brazilian midfielder’s form has dipped slightly, proving more wasteful with his passing, giving the ball away far more and not asserting himself on the game as people might have hoped to expect. If one were to look at the twitter timeline during the game, there were plenty of people cursing his wastefulness through the game, until of course he nodded the opening goal in, at which point the zero of the day was now the hero. This seems to sum him up as a whole recently, although performances have been improved, and he was not terrible against Norwich, he still has an inconsistency about his play, something which Nani has managed to take away from his game.

3) Valencia works at right back at times, but not all the time

I have stated in the past, that Antonio Valencia is a more than capable stand in when short of options and in need of a right back . Looking at the line up, it was understandable then that he would have to fill in once again. However, we may be starting to see the shortcomings of this, with aspects of his play lacking for someone defensively minded. Yes, he does provide adequate cover and rarely does he stray from position, but there were times when he was caught out, and was lucky not to be punished for this as he was dispossessed by Pilkington who was left through on goal but could not finish, putting his effort wide, much to the relief of United fans.

4) Phil Jones – impressing with every performance

The player that most would agree deserved man of the match with yet another rousing performance was summer signing Phil Jones. Throughout the game he threatened in attack and performed his defensive duties superbly, making final tackles to prevent Norwich’s own attacks as well as making runs and showing his strength in keeping the ball. Although all signings have shown good qualities in justifying their price tags, for many Phil Jones will be considered the best of them, showing consistency in his play and settling in to the side with relative ease. However, it appears the defensive unit as a whole is lacking organisation. Far too often, Norwich were allowed to create chances, and had it not been for their wastefulness, it could well have been them who went away with 3 points. The main reason for this is most likely due to Nemanja Vidic’s absence, the lack of a true experienced leader in the centre of defence, and fans will hope that his injury lay off does not last in the way that has been intimated.

5) Norwich were well organised 

Proceedings were certainly made more difficult by the approach in which Norwich played the game. Well organised in getting behind the ball they made it difficult for United to cut through and create anything meaningful, particularly in the first half. As well as this they were swift in getting the ball forward catching United on the break and creating difficult situations for them to deal with. An all round good performance by Paul Lambert’s side, but their wastefulness and lack of fortune in other aspects gave United a chance to exploit their shortcomings and come away with a hard fought victory.


9 responses to “Five Things We Learned – United vs. Norwich”

  1. Law says:

    Actually this is d right time to go on break{international free days}cos fire that burns in our lads has considerably dropped with d breath of fresh air on their home soil and family interaction,their swagger must be gingered.luv 4rm 9ja…

  2. bruce thomas says:

    An accurate assessment on all five counts. Anderson’s first touches were awful at times. Lindegaard is not a nose-picker and Norwich are well-organized. Hopefully Valencia at LB is just a short term position that has now served its purpose. And hopefully PJ can give Rio some tips on defending 🙂

  3. lununcle says:

    agree with all the assessment…but United back 4 have sometimes been out of position granting goal-scoring opportunities to our opponents which is not ideal…

    Anderson’s passing has not been impressive in the last couple of games. not sure if this is due to the Cleverley’s absence due to injury…

    I am happy with the current squad but i am not 100% convinced that we are good enough to match our opponents in England and Europe….need to buy one more key man….Sneijder!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Gorse Hill Red says:

    I was sat in the East Stand for this game and could hear and feel the groans of the Old Trafford faithful every time Anderson put his pass wrong. Like the article said neither Anderson nor Fletcher could impose themselves on the match and with Nani having an off day there was not much penetration.

    Against Liverpool United will have to improve, a game which the Scousers will no doubt raise their game for their cup final.

  5. timbo says:

    The weaknesses in the midfield have become as apparent as I stated earlier in the season, when I pointed out that Cleverly, still a young and relatively inexperienced player, was the only difference to a midfield that has been very lacking in world class quality for quite some time. United’s electrifying start to the season had everyone waxing rhapsodic about the potential of the side, especially with the young players in the squad, but the fact is that all it took was one injury to Cleverly and suddenly all the inventiveness and spark has disappeared – was he really making that much of a difference at such an early stage of his United career? He and Anderson seemed to be working brilliantly together, but since Cleverly’s absence the young Brazilian’s game has gone backwards, particularly with his lead-footed touch and passing – very uncharacteristic for a Brazilian.

    As for the play of Jones, yes, he does look an excellent prospect, but all those scintillating runs forward are also leaving United exposed at unbalanced the back on counter-attacks, part of the reason the team have looked uncharacteristically exposed at times. Once Vidic returns to partner Ferdinand, I’d personally like to see Jones used as a defensive midfield anchor, a role he seems perfectly suited for, more so that at center-back, where I feel his lack of height may cause problems against taller and more robust players, especially in set pieces.

  6. stevo says:

    Shocking midfield will win nothing this year.What is Ferguson thinking still keeping the woefull Evens,he would not get a game with Crewe.The manager has very big questions to answer with regards to the lack of signings in midfield.We were told by Ferguson that the money is there so where are the players?????

  7. lamar says:

    if we play like this in anfield we are gonna get our red asses handed to us. we can’t afford that! come back, tom!