What a difference a few days can make. After Leicester’s mauling of Southampton on Friday night the general consensus was that, in terms of the quality of football, we were much closer to the Saints than the Foxes, and the league table did nothing to assuage those concerns. Going into this game there was a real feeling that anything less than a victory against an unpredictable Norwich side would plunge United into a relegation dogfight and may even have pushed the Glazers to reach for their dwindling stack of P45s. The ‘Ole out’ brigade were busy sharpening their keyboards while the ‘Ole in’ camp were beavering away in their bedrooms, bending statistics to fit their narrative.
Then it happened. Manchester United won their first away league fixture since Crystal Palace on 27th February, and not only that, they scored more than one goal in a game for the first time since the opening weekend and got two wins on the spin for only the second time this season. For me, the most impressive aspect of this performance was the manner in which United set about the job of securing a victory. There was a confidence and an energy that ran right through the whole team and Norwich simply couldn’t live with it. I can’t say for sure how much of this was down to a fully fit Martial playing in his preferred position, but it was certainly a factor. The pace and movement of the front three was a joy to watch, although it took a thunderbolt from McTominay to open the scoring and put Norwich firmly on the back foot.
Rashford should have scored when VAR awarded a spotkick for Ben Godfrey’s challenge on Dan James, but his shot was weaker than the penalty decision and easily saved by Krul. Rashford did get his goal soon after, coolly slotting home his 50th United goal thanks to a lovely long range pass from James that took out the entire Norwich defence and left him with just the keeper to beat. Before the break there was another contentious VAR decision and another missed penalty, this time by Martial, which could have put the game to bed, however, it wasn’t until the 73rd minute that United finally scored their third and made the points secure. The goal was a thing of beauty, as Rashford and Martial tormented Norwich with their telepathy before Rashford teed up the Frenchman with an audacious backheel that Martial lifted over the onrushing Krul into the Norwich goal.
There was a consolation goal for Norwich in the dying embers of the game which was largely due to McTominay’s lack of concentration and Maguire’s slowness to react, however, it was too little, too late, as United were worthy winners in the end.
Deserved a clean sheet but was let down by his teammates towards the end.
Victor Lindelof: 6
Never quite got to grips with Teemu Pukki and looked shaky at times.
Harry Maguire: 7
Very good for the most part, although not fully switched on for Norwich’s goal.
Ashley Young: 6
Had a great first half but once again got leggy as the game wore on.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 7
Another fine display of defensive positioning and no-nonsense tackling, albeit slightly over-zealous at times – hence a yellow card.
Another impressive display from the Brazilian. With Pogba out for another few weeks Fred’s turnaround in form is extremely welcome.
Andreas Pereira: 8
As well as repeating the tenacity he showed against Liverpool his passing and link-up play were top notch.
Scott McTominay: 8
It could have been a complete performance but he blotted his copybook late on, losing the ball cheaply which led to the Norwich goal.
Daniel James: 8
Another good game, another assist. Carried the ball with purpose at every opportunity keeping Norwich permanently under pressure.
Marcus Rashford: 8
Took his 50th goal well and exuded supreme confidence. When Rashford swaggers United usually win and he swaggered around Carrow Road like a boss.
Anthony Martial: 9
Untouchable. Sometimes we just see glimmers of his ability, but against Norwich his talent shone like a beacon, lighting up United’s attack and blinding the defence.
Mason Greenwood: 5
Did what was expected in the time he had on the pitch
Jesse Lingard: 5
Showed some good movement without ever really threatening the Norwich goal.
James Garner: 6
Composed on the ball, wished Buendia goodnight with a brilliant dragback that had the Argentinian tackling a shadow. Missed a tackle that gave space for the goal but that can be ironed out with game time.