Manchester United have secured a crucial 1-0 victory over Norwich City this afternoon thanks to Juan Mata’s second-half strike.
Cameron Jerome had an excellent early opportunity to give Norwich the lead when he found himself unmarked in the Man United box but his header was straight at David de Gea. An injury to Matteo Darmian then saw him replaced by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson after just 16 minutes played. United’s best chance of a largely uneventful first half fell to Chris Smalling but he headed over from close-range following a corner.
Things improved for United after the break but Louis van Gaal’s side still found chances hard to come by. Eventually, the visitor’s first clear-cut opportunity of the game ended in a goal. It was Juan Mata who got it – he confidently fired home following good work from Wayne Rooney. The strike could prove to be vital as United maintain their hunt for Champions League football.
Abject first half
Anthony Martial missed the game due to an injury in the warm-up and United sorely missed the Frenchman, as well as Marcus Rashford, at Carrow Road in the first half (and much of the second, for that matter).
Memphis Depay struggled to get the ball under control, Wayne Rooney looked isolated up top and Jesse Lingard’s lack of incisiveness was glaring. If anything, it was Norwich who looked the likeliest to score. And in the end, the game was almost played at a friendly pace. It was abysmal all-round from United considering what was at stake.
The game against Norwich was a chance for Memphis to show off what he can do in the absences of Martial and Rashford but the Dutchman continued to disappoint.
His touch was off, he didn’t really get at his man and that final bit of quality wasn’t there. Of course, it is easy to make Memphis a scapegoat when the majority of his teammates were also awful. But United will want him to be a match-winner in the coming years and there was barely any evidence on show at Carrow Road to suggest he can be that player.
Mata was disappointing for large swathes of the match but he delivered for United when it mattered by scoring the winning goal.
The move began when Rooney capitalised on a mistake by Norwich’s Sebastien Bassong. Just as it looked like the chance had gone begging, Rooney showed superb awareness to turn and lay off the ball to Mata, who finished past John Ruddy. It was a great moment for Mata but there is still a sense that he should be doing much more.
United hang on in top four race…just
It was hard to think of a worse performance from United this season (perhaps FC Midtjylland away) but they somehow got the win.
The result means that United hang on in the race to finish in the top four of the Premier League but they will need to be much, much better against West Ham United on Tuesday. A similar display should see the Hammers comfortably beat van Gaal’s side.