Manchester United 4-0 Norwich City
Well, there’s no need to get hyperbolic, but United enjoyed a splendid rainy evening at Old Trafford as if they were guests in one of those Tahitian Tiki-type bars in one of the ultra-luxurious hotels they stayed in during their last money-spinning monsoon-and-muggy-heat tour of the Far East this Summer. Indeed, things went so swimmingly in the rain that it could, ideally, have been the whole season starting over from point zero. Three well taken goals and a lucky penalty definitely gave United their groove back. Led by a fearless Adnan Januzaj, United held their own in the middle of a Premier League park for the first time in more than a season. Januzaj may not be the passer the club desperately needs, but he took the game by the scruff of its neck against a low-energy Norwich and ran things beautifully, rarely using his comfort zone on the flanks at all. Very much over matched, led from the back by Sebastian Bassong and Leroy Fer, the Canaries lacked potency throughout, with only the tricky Nathan Redmond posing any sort of threat to United’s rickety old defense, featuring Vidic and Ferdinand as C.B.s.
With Januzaj a looming epiphany in the middle, holding the ball at will, whoever would have been picked as a striker had it all going for him. Moyes picked Javier Hernández on the night and the Mexican assassin had a fine night and a pair of goals to show for it. The fact is that he very much needed to big himself up after spending most of October misfiring for Mexico’s national team and getting splinters in his posterior from sitting on United’s bench. Used rarely by either Ferguson or Moyes as a starter, Hernández’s role on the big occasions is as an impact substitute a la Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. As such he is superb! There are however, more and murmurs coming from his camp–his agent, his mother and father interviewed on Republica Deportivo and friends in the Mexican press–that he wants desperately to be a starter. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen in his immediate future at Manchester United. One just hopes he will recognize the perfectibility in what he does right now and stays, but this is doubtful. At any rate, happy or unhappy, his ability to execute when not being pressed by big men was right there for David Moyes, his coaches and the fans to see and will give the Glaswegian much food for thought. More than a competent deputy for Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, Chicharito has thus far poached an equal number of goals.
United drew first blood in the 20th minute as Januzaj drew a fortunate penalty. The baby-faced Belgian was dribbling on the byline, with his back to goal when big Leroy Fer, who was attempting to badger him off the ball, used some rough manners, his left leg poking across the back of the young United player’s calves. It seemed to be a surprise to everybody when Kevin Friend, the referee, blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. Hernández’s penalty was side-footed powerfully to the right of Norwich’s goalkeeper Mark Bunn who had dived the wrong way. The rest of the team may have felt relaxed about having the lead, not so Januzaj. He was ravenous for the ball. Those mazy dribbles of his do not always work but he showed relentless courage., his exquisite ball-handling a fine mix of balance and left-footed subtlety.
Less successful were Wilfried Zaha and Ashley Young on the wings. Zaha flitted about a lot in the first half and caused Norwich’s defense trouble. A nice set-up for Chicharito just missed and Nathan Redmond had to be pulled back to protect his vulnerable full backs. Meanwhile, on the left flank, Ashley Young saw plenty of the ball, but seemed almost painfully passive throughout. Constrained from diving, Young concentrated on plenty of pouting and wind-sprints with the ball at his feet.. At the end of each sprint he would pump the ball into the box, but never once came close to any of his teammates. Young’s corners–and it is to his credit that he won many–were all (every single one!) over hit, whether just past the penalty box or into the crowd.
Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones Jones stayed away from trouble in midfield, making nothing but short square passes. On the night, it was exactly what Unitede needed. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, both clearly trying to regain the sharpness they’ve lacked so often this season, may not have much left in their legs but there was enough juice on hand for them to keep the big, gormless Swedish striker, Johan Elmander, passive and contained.
The game was nine minutes into the second half when Alexander Büttner, who had his best game thus far in a United kit, showed Young how the passing thing is done. After a fine run down the left flank, his cross for Hernández was perfect. The Mexican’s header drew a reflex save from Mark Bunn, its rebound bouncing nicely for Hernández to nod home at a second attempt.
Shortly afterward, the Norwich midfielder Robert Snodgrass had to be taken off on a stretcher, breathing through an oxygen mask, after a clash of heads with Rafael da Silva. Eleven minutes later, play began again. The stoppage time served to temporarily revive Norwich as Redmond made a couple of nice runs before being dispossessed.
Phil Jones’ fine goal came three minutes from the end of normal time as a hard hit Rafael cross was diverted into his path and the rubber-faced England international blasted a volley home. Last, but not least, a fine jinky, head-down run by substitute Wayne Rooney was followed by a seeing-eye lob that his fellow sub Fabio Da Silva hovered up, controlled, steered around Bunn and then fired home underneath him,
Having suffered debilitating defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and West Brom last month, United have won four and drawn two in October. The defending Premier League champions, eight points off the top of the table, play Fulham next Saturday before meeting current leaders Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 10.”You need to go on runs in this league and this club is the best in the business at building that,” United’s assistant manager Steve Round said after the match.