Injuries to Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand and the da Silva twins have robbed Manchester United the option of fielding a settled back four and in the last few games it has started to tell.
The first half was probably one of United’s poorest performances this season in the sense that there was no urgency in the play, the passing was sloppy and they looked vulnerable at the back. Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez’ return in attack was a welcome sight but the latter had an anonymous game with the former unable to convert any of his seven shots.
Take nothing away from Norwich though, they finished the game with 22 interceptions and 17 tackles (with a 47.06% success rate). Their strong defensive display frustrated United who’s poor distribution made it even harder for them to penetrate their opponent’s defence. Two of The Canaries’ interceptions came in the box whilst the other 20 came from intercepted passes, once again highlighting the inaccuracy of United’s passing of late.
A largely uneventful first 45 gave way to a second period that saw United come out with more intent and pace in their attack, but this left them open to numerous counter-attacks. Both sides finished the game with a similar amount of chances created (United 15, Norwich 14) and like the Chelsea match, it was clinical finishing that made all the difference.
Norwich had 12 shots (three on target and nine off target) and United also had 12 shots (four on target and eight off target). Antonio Valencia’s deployment at right back cost United a goal against Basel and it almost did again on Saturday. It would be unfair to criticise him too much but his lack of defensive position and awareness allowed Anthony Pilkington a couple of one on situations with Anders Lindegaard.
Anderson was another one who didn’t play particularly well and although he scored the opener, his lack of consistency since Tom Cleverley’s injury is a worry. With Cleverley he shared attacking and defensive duties but he has been unable to find the right balance when Darren Fletcher or Michael Carrick have come in.
Overall, none of the team played well and the mood of the game was summed up after Danny Welbeck’s goal when a shot of Sir Alex Ferguson showed him with arms folded and no emotion on his face. On a different day this could easily have been a loss for the Red Devils and unless improvements are made that day will come. However, like the start of last season, United are still grinding out results whilst not playing particularly well – a trait they will need to rely on while they look for some form.