|Image from Manchester Evening News|
Manchester United made it into the semi-finals of the FA Cup after beating Norwich City in extra time thanks to a late strike from our captain Harry Maguire. It had not been the best performance from United as they struggled against a side who currently sits bottom of the Premier League. They lacked energy and were playing at a much slower pace, not passing more quickly and taking one too many touches trying to put the ball into the box.
The first half saw both sides spurn half chances. Though United dominated the first 45 minutes with lots of possession but without creating anything clear cut at goal. Odion Ighalo sparked United into life in an otherwise dreary encounter when he scored past Norwich’s Tim Krul on 51 minutes. Norwich scored the equaliser from their first shot on target when Todd Cantwell’s precision strike went past Sergio Romero’s and into the goal on 75 minutes. Norwich were reduced down to 10 men when Timm Klose was sent off after grappling Ighalo to the ground after he was put through on goal by Bruno Fernandes’s pass. From then on and into extra time the game went, United produced wave and wave of attack on the Norwich goal. With two minutes left on the clock and seemingly the game heading towards penalties, Harry Maguire late strike earned United the winner and a spot in the semi finals.
Reflecting on the match, here I give my player ratings.
Sergio Romero – 5/10
Romero who was making his fifteenth appearance of the season had very little to do all game except pick the ball out of the goal when Todd Cantwell’s strike went past him for the Norwich equaliser. He might feel he could have done better to stop the shot from going in. He did punch away an incoming cross to stop Norwich from getting a shot at goal late on.
Diogo Dalot – 5/10
It was Dalot’s first game since the fifth round FA Cup win against Derby back in March and it clearly showed he was not up to the pace of the game and he looked unconvincing at times.
Did not offer much in terms of attacking intent down the right hand side and was not really effective in stopping the opposition’s Todd Cantwell. He will be lucky to start the game in the semi-finals as Wan-Bissaka will be back in the starting eleven.
Eric Bailly – 5/10
Bailly did not have the best start to the game but grew into it as time went on as he made several clearances. Hopefully he can keep himself free from injury as he looks to become a regular start in the centre of defence with Harry Maguire.
Harry Maguire – 7.5/10
Our captain proved instrumental both at the back and up front. He made five clearances, two interceptions, one block and had three shots on goal with the crucial 118th minute extra time strike securing the win for United.
Luke Shaw – 6.5/10
Shaw got into some great attacking positions and was rarely threatened at the back during the game. Provided the crucial cross into the box that went onto setup United’s first goal which was scored by Ighalo. At times, I would have liked to have seen Shaw take on the Norwich defenders a few more times getting in more crosses towards the box rather than cutting back inside to then pass the ball.
Fred – 6.5/10
Fred was steady throughout the game and he was the one getting United on the front foot with his passing. Also defended the Norwich attack when needed, especially against Max Aarons.
Scott McTominay – 6/10
McTominay tried to give the team lots of energy and was not afraid to get stuck in. His ambitious passing did not always succeed every time. A player that is constantly improving his game.
Juan Mata – 5/10
Mata did not seem to have much influence that he has had in other games and at times was getting caught in possession. He did provide the assist for Odion Ighalo’s goal though.
Jesse Lingard – 5/10
Lingard did not have his best game but to be fair he did not have much time on the pitch in previous games for us to build up any form. Though he did look busy and had United’s first two shots at goal, he faded away after this and was not quite pressing the opposition enough. His performance will do little to convince the doubters about him.
Bruno Fernandes – 7/10
Fernandes was definitely pulling all the strings on the pitch as he looked to create something when he was on the ball whether it would be a pass to cut through the Norwich defence or a cross into the box. Though it did not always come off at times, at least he was trying.
Odion Ighalo – 7/10
He was getting little service from other players around him the first half and had to feed on half chances. However, in the second half he scored the goal to get United in front. Hard working, got in dangerous attacking positions and took his chances when he got them.
Marcus Rashford (replaced Jesse Lingard) – 5/10
Rashford had a quiet time on the pitch but got more minutes in his legs and will probably start the Premier League game against Brighton.
Brandon Williams (replaced Diogo Dalot) – 5.5/10
I thought Ole might have started Brandon ahead of Luke Shaw in this game and when he did come on, he was put on the right side of the defence. Bought lots of enthusiasm and energy despite playing in an unfamiliar position.
Mason Greenwood (replaced Juan Mata) – 6/10
Greenwood looked dangerous when he came on the pitch as he looked to come in from the right hand side and attack the Norwich goal. Nearly got the winner for United before it went into extra time
Nemanja Matic (replaced McTominay) – 5.5/10
Proved very reliable in the centre of midfield as he lets those ahead of him do their thing i.e. Pogba and Fernandes.
Anthony Martial (replaced on Bailly) – 6/10
Martial replaced Bailly in the extra time as United went all out in attack as they searched for the winning goal. He was not able to quite find the form of Wednesday night but should have scored when Rashford had put him through at the end of the first period of extra time.
Paul Pogba (replaced Fred) – 7/10
Pogba’s arrival on the pitch put some urgency into United as we put the Norwich defence under siege. We are a better team with him in it. Played a clever ball into the box that resulted in Harry Maguire getting the winning goal.
All the changes that Ole had made to the starting eleven for this game had disrupted United’s rhythm that they had on Wednesday night. Yes it did give the fringe players some more game time but overall United were not quite up to the pace. As we play Brighton on Tuesday night in the Premier League, I expect to see the same players we had in the side for the game against Sheffield United.
We made hard work of this game but in the end we got the job done and we’re off to Wembley.