Manchester United defeated the Premier League’s basement boys Norwich City on a sunny afternoon at Carrow Road. After a hard-fought 120 minutes of dogged football, they managed to book their place in their 30th FA Cup semi-final — the most of any team in the history of the competition.
That, however, does not reflect on the nature of the game against Norwich. The Red Devils evidently slacked off and were way too poor on the ball for large parts of the game. It was, by some distance, their worst showing since football resumed after the COVID-19 lockdown.
As expected prior to the game, United rang in the changes, with up to eight players being dropped or rested. This included the likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, David De Gea, amongst others.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side saw 64% of the possession in their favour, attempted 37 (!) shots, eight of them on target, compared to Norwich’s nine in total and one on target. That one shot, however, led to United conceding against the run of play. Todd Cantwell’s attempted long shot cancelled out Odion Ighalo‘s well-taken opener early in the first half.
Timm Klose was sent off in the 88th minute after blocking the Nigerian being the last man. That forced Norwich to dig in deeper to keep the Red Devils at bay and hope for a goal on the counter or leave Tim Krul to weave his magic in a shoot-out.
With just two minutes of extra-time left to play, Pogba played a stunning ball into the box that was bundled over to United skipper Harry Maguire. The towering Englishman ensured the ball found the back of the net with a scrappy finish and sealed the win for his side.
They struggled to break down a Norwich side that shipped 56 goals in their 31 appearances this campaign. Given the quality and firepower that Solskjaer’s side had on the pitch by the end, they made a mess out of what could have been, in theory, a more comfortable outing. They beat Norwich home and away in the league on an aggregate scoreline of 7-1.
Solskjaer echoed these thoughts in his post-match analysis of the game, saying;
At the end of the day, the major and arguably only takeaway from the game is that United have booked their place at Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final.
On that note, let’s take a look at how the Manchester United players were ranked in their torrid outing against Norwich City.
Sergio Romero – 4
Argentine veteran Sergio Romero wasn’t called upon too many times in the game and understandably so, given that United had the lion’s share of possession. However, when he was called into action, he failed to save a shot at a favourable height and placement. Should have done much, much better to save Norwich’s one attempt at goal.
Luke Shaw – 5
Luke Shaw saw a lot of the ball registering 114 touches on the afternoon, only lesser than creator-in-chief Bruno Fernandes. That being said, he failed to put it to good use and attempted five crosses, completing just one. Failed to dominate his flank and looked far too casual.
Eric Bailly – 5
Didn’t see too much of the ball but it was a decent performance from Eric Bailly when called into action. Was a bit careless in possession, notably losing the ball near the corner flag to Todd Cantwell earlier on in the game.
Harry Maguire – 7
The skipper had a mixed outing against Norwich. He was an important figure in bringing the ball out from defence and completed more passes than anyone on the pitch bar Bruno Fernandes (ranked third for touches). He should have done better with the Cantwell goal as he seemed to back away from the winger rather than trying to win the ball.
In the end, it was his 118th-minute goal that proved to be decisive. It was a smart finish from the captain, leaving no chance for Krul in goal.
Diogo Dalot – 6
Much like Shaw, he had very little to offer going forward. Diogo Dalot completed none of his six crosses and failed to handle proceedings on the right flank. Defensively, he handled the little threat that Norwich offered well enough. Subbed off for Brandon Williams for the last third of the game.
Scott McTominay – 5
It was a very uncharacteristic performance from the youngster. Scott McTominay had a rather ineffective outing against Norwich and was careless on the ball. Looked very rusty, which could be due to this being his first post-lockdown start. Hooked for Paul Pogba in the 77th minute.
Fred – 4
One of Fred’s worst games in a United shirt. Sloppy touches, poor selection of passes and overall, a lack of any sort of incision. A dire and anonymous performance from the Brazilian. Hooked for Nemanja Matic in the 77th minute.
Jesse Lingard – 3
It is difficult to pinpoint any one notable event the Englishman contributed to apart from potshots at goal that ended in the empty stands. In his defence, he played most of the game in an unfamiliar wide role and had his fair share of moments he needed to defend in. That being said, he provided virtually nothing in the final third, and it was an evening to forget for Jesse Lingard. Subbed off for Rashford at 62′.
Bruno Fernandes – 6
There is little doubt that this was Bruno Fernandes’ most underwhelming game in a United shirt. The Portuguese, who generally is a composed figure on the pitch, looked tired and out of sorts. It is, however, important to note that Bruno registered most shots, passes, touches, key passes and tackles for his side on the night. He was the only creative presence for United on the pitch until Pogba’s arrival.
Perhaps he could do with some rest against Brighton & Hove Albion, having played close to every single minute of football for United since the restart. His work rate on the evening was impeccable, covering large distances right until the end to win the ball back.
Juan Mata – 4
An anonymous outing for Juan Mata. Apart from two key passes and a few impressive touches, there was nothing of note. Often ended attacks due to his lack of pace. An outing to forget.
Odion Ighalo – 7
Ighalo got the crucial opener with a superb finish early on in the second half. He displayed great presence of mind and a striker’s instincts to find himself at the right place at the right time. Also won the foul that resulted in Norwich being reduced to 10 men after Timm Klose’s sending off. Has now scored in every start he’s received at Manchester United.
Marcus Rashford – 5
A largely ineffective outing from Marcus Rashford despite trying his luck with a couple of shots from distance. Yet to score a goal since the resumption of football.
Brandon Williams – 6
Brandon Williams put in a phenomenal block which could have very easily led to a goal for the hosts. It was a wake-up call for a terribly out of sorts defence a few minutes after conceding the equaliser. Williams tracked back and excellently and prevented Onel Hernandez from getting his shot away. Won four out of five attempted tackles as well.
Mason Greenwood – 5
Went for glory on a couple of occasions when he could have found teammates better placed to take a shot at goal. A brave display from Mason Greenwood, but left a lot to be desired in the final third.
Paul Pogba – 7
Gamechanger. His presence was the catalyst for some quality football, and it’s no coincidence that some of their best passages of play came with Pogba on the pitch. His cameo was marked by a stunning pass into the Canaries’ box that led to Maguire’s goal.
Nemanja Matic – 6
An impressive and commanding cameo from the big Serb. Matic helped solidify the backline by moving into centre-back for the last 20 minutes or so and was an absolute wall. Undoubtedly United’s starting defensive midfielder at the moment.
Anthony Martial – 5
Deft touches, neat interplay and a couple of attempted shots. Overall, he failed to impose himself on proceedings but was on the pitch for just over 20 minutes.