United fans have been looking forward to the end of the season for a while now. With top four seemingly too big a haul, the Reds rely on FA Cup glory if they are going to salvage anything from Van Gaal’s second campaign at the club. However, being the unpredictable Premier League season that it has been, United needed to take all three points from Norwich if there was any hope of Champions League football next season. Norwich, on the other hand, needed three points desperately if they were going to have any chance of staying in the top division. Two teams hanging from metaphorical cliff edges by their fingernails based on fans’ expectation; surely this was going to be a thrilling contest…
Quite the opposite. United failed to break down one of the worst defences in the league and needed to rely on a Bassong error to open the scoring. They didn’t look like scoring again afterwards and their defence was flaky to say the least. If Jerome or Mbokani were more clinical, United could have easily lost this one. Fortunately for them, Mata managed to clinch all three points with his second half strike.
Player Ratings [10 = CR7 days (good); 1 = Bebe (bad)]
De Gea: 6
Nothing to write home about for the Manchester United player of the year. Had to be alert early on to clutch Jerome’s poor header but had little to do other than that. Distribution was not his best but another clean sheet is always good.
Was only on the pitch for 15 minutes before picking up an ankle injury which ended his game. Looked confident going forward. Van Gaal was probably ecstatic that he managed to get his full-back substitution in before the end of the first half.
Not a good day for the Argentine but not a terrible one either. Looked really hesitant in a central defensive position and was caught out early when he allowed Jerome to peel off for a free header. Seemed to hoof the ball out of the back whenever it came to him. 71 per cent pass accuracy is not good enough for Van Gaal’s pass-it-out-the-back philosophy.
Commanding as ever protecting the United goal. Won ten aerial duels, six more than the next best, Jerome. Was not fazed by the introduction of a much more physical striker in Mbokani in the second half. Played the ball out of the back comfortably and effectively. Should have scored with a header from a corner in the first half. Probably United’s most consistent player this season.
Has looked much better than his normal self in the last two seasons since coming back from injury. Was United’s most attacking player and also defended well. Linked up well with Mata and Herrera which was the much more fluid side of United’s attack. Annoyingly, the most one-footed player to ever play football.
Played averagely in front of the back four. Spread the play well to either wing but is so slow with his movement that he is reducing United’s attacking pace when in possession. Made a few good defensive contributions and was replaced by Fosu-Mensah in the final minutes.
Woeful performance. Looks really short of confidence and lacking in motivation too. Early on, he gave up on loose balls which a player like Lingard or Rashford would have harried like excitable terriers. Had the worst pass accuracy of United’s attacking players, was dispossessed the most on the pitch and didn’t have a single shot on target. Went close with a free-kick in the dying moments but something radical needs to change in the Dutchman’s mindset if he wants to achieve his well-documented potential.
Ran tirelessly as he usually does but to little effect. His passing was decent at 89% but he seemed shot of creativity. Failed to have chemistry of any sort with Memphis on the right and was too far away from Rooney to effectively link up. Hard to blame him when he is so naturally a winger. He will be looking forward to better days donning the Red and White.
Ran tirelessly to a very good effect. In the role that suits him best: box-to-box midfield. Had a worse pass accuracy % than Lingard but played a third more successful passes than the Mancunian. Added a quick tempo to United’s play and his link up with Mata on the right was very fluid; the two have a close relationship and you can tell on pitch through the chemistry and dynamic they bring to the game. Made more tackles than anyone on the pitch (6) and looked dangerous in the Canaries final third.
Mata: 7 (MOTM)
So often is he isolated on the right hand wing, however, today he made it his own. Completed more passes than any other player on the pitch with the highest pass accuracy (96%). Sprinted a solid 30 yards to get into the position to score after Rooney had seemingly run into a dead end, and what a cool finish it was. Placed on the far right had side of the pitch by Van Gaal because he wanted two energetic midfielders in the centre of the park. However, when in search for a goal, it is hard not to dream about how much more fluid a central attacking partnership of Herrera and Mata might be.
Was very isolated up front by himself, which caused him to drop deep and look for the ball meaning that United played the majority of the match without a striker. Rooney struggles to make any runs past defenders and so his evolution into a midfielder makes much more sense now that his pace has gone. His touch was as abysmal as it gets; every ball sprayed towards him seemed to bounce off his shin into the path of a Norwich defender. Under pressure, both Rashford and Martial have shown that they are much more composed than the Scouser is. That being said, he did set the goal up on a plate for Mata (and later Schneiderlin), however, I am not sure if that way Rooney’s plan when he failed to take two shooting opportunities.
Came on for the injured Darmian and put some excellent crosses into the penalty area in the second half, unfortunately no-one made the effort to get onto the end of them. Put in a good shift defensively, shutting out Redmond who looked lively at the start.
Replaced Lingard in the 78th minute and managed to string a few passes together. Had a great opportunity to make it 2-0 but skewed the ball wide of the far post.
Made a cameo in midfield (apparently his strongest position) in the final five minutes but did not manage to impact the game enough.
The Red Devils are going to need to put in a much more convincing performance against West Ham on Tuesday if any hope of retaining Champions League football is realistic. The Hammers lost against Swansea dramatically on Saturday but it is unlikely that they will put in as bad a performance as that against Manchester United, as it is their final ever game at the Boleyn Ground before moving into the Olympic stadium next season. Rashford, Blind and (hopefully) Martial will return to the starting eleven to make a stronger, more dynamic showing against the Hammers.
All statistic from WhoScored.com