[Premier League] Manchester United 4-0 Norwich City
ManUtd: Wayne Rooney (pen.40, 48), Juan Mata (62, 72)
Manchester United got Ryan Giggs’ tenure as interim manager off to the perfect start with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Norwich at Old Trafford.
A pair of Wayne Rooney goals, the first from the penalty spot, in the minutes immediately before and after half-time set the Reds on their way and another double, from substitute Juan Mata, ensured that the Giggs era began with the victory craved by a packed Old Trafford.
The new boss received a rapturous reception from the supporters more used to seeing him out on the pitch than in the dugout, but a determined Norwich side ensured that his side did not have it all their own way until Rooney broke the deadlock.
Danny Welbeck, partnering Rooney in a 4-4-2 formation, had United’s best chance when his powerful shot from a tight angle forced Canaries’ keeper John Ruddy into a vital save at his near post. But when Welbeck was dragged down in the area by Steven Whittaker, Rooney sent Ruddy the wrong way from 12 yards to open the floodgates.
Rooney doubled the lead just after half-time when he curled the ball in off Ruddy’s left-hand post from outside the area, having been allowed licence to cut across the Norwich defence from the left flank. Welbeck had forced Ruddy into action with a fierce volley and Nemanja Vidic had headed over when Mata put the game out of reach, converting Phil Jones’ cross with a snap-shot from close range.
United’s dominance was confirmed when Mata stooped to nod in a deflected Antonio Valencia effort from inside the six yard box, Rooney was not far from a hat-trick when he looped the ball onto the roof of the net and Javier Hernandez missed a great chance for 5-0 in the closing seconds.
The Match: Off to a flyer
The match: United were positive from the outset, but didn't quite play with the cutting edge that the fans wanted. Norwich’s intentions were clear – frustrate, soak it up and try to nick something if the moment came. Goals change games, as they say, and the penalty for United just before the break and the quick follow-up strike from Wayne Rooney early in the second period ensured mostly one-way traffic for the rest of the match. Once the deadlock was broken, the Reds played with confidence, and only a couple of spurned chances plus fine work from the rightly highly-rated John Ruddy kept it down to only 4-0.
The goals: Rooney’s penalty was emphatic – firmly struck to Ruddy’s left, with the Norwich stopper diving the other way. For his follow-up, Rooney was given the freedom of the slick Old Trafford pitch, the Norwich defence allowing him to run across the face of the box before curling the ball in off the post. The furious reaction of the Canaries’ keeper spoke volumes of the way his back four gave Rooney the opportunity, but it was still a lovely finish. For the third, Phil Jones’ low cross cut through the porous Norwich defence and allowed Juan Mata, on the pitch for only three minutes, to stab the ball home from close range. The fourth saw Patrice Evra’s cross to the far post cut back by Antonio Valencia, allowing Mata to stoop the deflected effort home for a rare headed goal.
Star man: Shinji Kagawa built on a good few recent outings with another influential display, helping turn the screw either side of half-time just when it could have become a frustrating first afternoon in charge for Giggs. The reception the Japanese playmaker received when substituted showed that he is becoming a key figure.
Sub plot: At the end of a week when the eyes of the footballing world had been fixed firmly on Old Trafford, many questions over the new set-up were sure to play themselves out. Would United play with a touch more swagger and verve? How would Ryan Giggs make the transition from player to manager? How would his first team selection set up? One question was answered immediately – Giggs was in a suit, rather than tracksuit and he looked the part as soon as he emerged from the tunnel at the start.
Opposition: Norwich played patiently, soaking up United’s pressure with two solid banks of four. Neil Adams’ side offered little in attack until United’s brace either side of half-time jolted them into action and reminded them that even a point would not move them above Aston Villa in their relegation battle. But the Reds proved too strong, and David De Gea only had a couple of saves of note to make.
Move of the match: United’s growing confidence was shown by a nice move late on when Valencia found Mata, whose lovely backheel to Hernandez did not bring the reward it deserved – but it all bodes well for the season ending well.
In the stands: It took just a few seconds before the “attack” chant went up from the Stretford End, perfectly in sync with the new manager’s stated intentions. It was quickly followed by a new one – “Ryan Giggs’ red army”, then an old favourite – “Giggs will tear you apart”. That continued throughout the second half.