Manchester United missed two first-half penalties against Norwich on Sunday evening, but were not left to rue those chances after goals from Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial earned them a 3-1 win at Carrow Road.
After Tim Krul produced a stunning save to prevent Anthony Martial opening the scoring, he was powerless less than a minute later to stop McTominay’s low, hard drive handing the visitors the lead 21 minutes in.
United were then controversially awarded a penalty after VAR review, but Krul was equal to Rashford’s tame effort from the spot. He could do nothing just a few minutes later though, as Rashford slotted home in acres of space after being found by Daniel James’ long pass.
Todd Cantwell was correctly penalised by VAR for handball in the box as half time approached, but this time Martial failed to hit the back of the net as Krul once again made a flying save.
The second half was all about weathering the expected Norwich fightback for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, with Teemu Pukki’s early miss one of the few meaningful opportunities the hosts could carve out. With Norwich pressing, Martial put the game well and truly to bed with a deft chip over Krul following Rashford’s delightful backheeled assist.
Injuries made for a stop-start finish to the match, and Onel Hernandez’ late consolation was not enough to prevent United moving up to seventh in the Premier League table.
Key Talking Point
Ever since dispatching Manchester City at Carrow Road last month, times have been tough for Norwich in the league. It was thought that the win over the Champions could spur them on for the remainder of the campaign but, instead, defensive frailties and a lack of service to Teemu Pukki are beginning to cost them dearly.
Happy to allow United to control possession, what was important was how effective they were when they had the ball. To put it bluntly, they weren’t. A ridiculous penalty decision was saved by Krul in what could have been a turning point, but instead some abysmal defending allowed Rashford the freedom on Norfolk to all-but put the game to bed.
Even another penalty save couldn’t turn the tide, as mistake after mistake at the back meant United always looked like extending their lead. Daniel Farke’s side are at their best when on the attack, but if they keep shipping goals at such an alarming rate, their hopes of remaining a Premier League side next season look bleak.
Starting XI: Krul (8*); Aarons (7), Amadou (4), Godfrey (5), Lewis (5); Tettey (6), Buendia (6), Leitner (5), McLean (5), Cantwell (5); Pukki (5)
Substitutes: Hernandez (7), Stiepermann (6), Byram (5)
It isn’t often you concede three goals during a game but remain the best player on the pitch for your side. But that is exactly what Tim Krul did.
A remarkable point-blank save with the scores at 0-0 defied belief, but to then save two penalties in the first half, he’ll be cursing his side’s failings for not going to earn a positive result from the game.
Key Talking Point
Having secured their first away win in all competitions since March in midweek, the question remained to be seen whether that result could spark a confidence boost within the United squad.
Without a truly creative midfielder in United’s trio, they relied on fluidity with Fred, McTominay and Andreas Pereira to weave their way through midfield, although some sloppy Norwich defending made the task significantly easier.
McTominay ran the show, and even two missed penalties proved not to be costly on an easy evening at Carrow Road. With the hosts throwing more men forward during the second period, it was down to Solskjaer’s defensive players to play their part and they largely stunted the Canaries’ efforts, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka the pick of the bunch.
The third goal ended the match as a contest, in what was a superb night’s work for United, recording their first win away from home in the league this season and easing the pressure of Solskjaer’s shoulders. Performances like this will see them climb up the table, with this unquestionably their best showing of the season since the opening round victory over Chelsea.
Starting XI: De Gea (7); Wan-Bissaka (8), Lindelof (7), Maguire (7), Young (7); Fred (7), McTominay (9*), Pereira (7); James (8), Martial (7), Rashford (8)
Substitutes: Greenwood (6), Lingard (6), Williams (N/A)
It’s a fairly damning statement when there is only one goalscorer among United’s midfielders in the league this season, with Scott McTominay the only player of that group to find the back of the net for Solskjaer’s side this season.
Flying the flag on his own so far, the 22-year-old’s goal was expertly taken, but his all-round display was confident and assured, and he set the tone in the Red Devils’ midfield for what ultimately proved a comfortable victory.
Premier League football is put on the back-burner for United, who travel to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to take on Chelsea in the Carabao Cup round of 16.
It’s an away trip for the Canaries up next too, as they head to the south coast to take on Brighton in league action on Saturday.