Although the main focus of gameweek ten was the thrilling game between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a crucial game of their own as they faced a tough trip away to Norwich City. It was the most ideal and perfect chance for the Red Devils to get back to winning ways, as they had been sitting in the bottom half of the table for quite some time.
The match as a whole, was really one-sided in favour of the visitors in terms of the command in possession and the amount of successful passes that were achieved. However, the hosts managed to pile on some pressure in the first half and were not afraid to attack United’s defence, as Norwich’s midfield had the required hunger, stride and pace to get to the final third time and time again.
But it didn’t take much for Solskjaer’s men to get the breakthrough, as they were able to have a confident lead over Norwich by the half-time break through Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford, even though they had missed two penalties which were well saved by Tim Krul. A number of questions were raised about the host’s individual defending and their lack of positional awareness, as they could have done a lot more to prevent both goals from happening in the first place.
Towards the last 20 minutes of the game, the Red Devils got the third and final goal to put the game to bed as Anthony Martial scored in his first league start since the end of August. Norwich continued to play the way that Daniel Farke had set them up to play from the first minute, which allowed them to gain a late and well-deserved consolation, as Onel Hernandez was able to get his goal in the final moments of the game, which could have been easily avoided from a United point of view.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
Penalty issues need addressing urgently
Manchester United have received four penalties so far this season, more than any other side in the league, but have only managed to convert half of them into the back of the net. It’s normally not a big problem or a worry as an individual could miss a few here or there or the goalkeeper could generally be a quality shot-stopper, but this is now becoming a rising issue for Solskjaer and his men.
One of the reasons to why it needs addressing is because the main two options at the moment happen to be Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who have recently failed to step up and become the main penalty take for the side. And with Paul Pogba expected to remain on the sidelines for around 6-8 long weeks, the boss may need to keep a close eye on the likes of Andreas Pereira, Daniel James or even Ashley Young, who could potentially be an expert at taking penalties.
Quality and depth in midfield is still lacking
When comparing United’s midfield to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, it can easily be stated that former’s potential and quality in the middle of the pitch is respectively nowhere near the latter’s. For sure, Pogba’s presence is being missed in recent weeks and is badly required for the upcoming months, but even when he is playing on a regular basis, the team is still lacking the defensive steel as well as the attacking creativity to help the side on both sides of the pitch.
United’s midfield has been recently been viewed as a double pivot involving both Fred and Scott McTominay within this role, and despite their work rate and their effort on and off the ball, the class and ability of the pair isn’t good enough to lead the team to a top four finish. Neither of two have the intelligence to be the difference maker or the game changer when needed the most, which may lead the club and the manager with the thought of buying a midfielder or two in the January window.
Anthony Martial is back, so are the goals for Man Utd
There is no secret that Anthony Martial is United’s best attacker, whether he is utilised in the number nine position or on the flanks, he is still able to cause a number of problems for the opposition’s defence and their goalkeeper. Despite being unavailable for quite some time due to an injury, he has recently come back and shown his quality once again, from scoring the winner on Thursday night away to Partizan Belgrade and now bagging a goal away to Norwich City.
If the Frenchman was to stay injury-free from now till the end of the season, it wouldn’t be an absolute surprise to see him finish the season as the club’s top goal-scorer as well as one of the best finishers within the Premier League. United’s chances of reviving their season and still aiming for a top-four finish in the league would come down to the contribution of Martial himself, who has the capability of creating chances and space for his team-mates along with placing them into the net.