United welcomed vistors Norwich City to Old Trafford intent on securing 3 points and remaining top of the table with the dreaded international break looming large. Having slightly wobbled after a blistering start, United were looking to eradicate the defensive lapses that had marred the mid week performance against Basel, and which had seen the reds only manage to draw their last 2 games. With Old Trafford bathed in sunshine (and green and gold) an exciting afternoon was in store, as Wayne Rooney was welcomed back to the starting line up following his hamstring injury, to give United the extra composure in the opposition’s half which would relieve the pressure on the under fire back 4. Anders Lindegaard deputized in goal, making his first Premier League start for the club in place of David De Gea, who was rested ahead of international duty with Spain U-21’s.
Tension surrounding United’s defence lacking Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic was immediately heightened in the 5th minute, as Norwich began the game brightly and should have taken an early lead. Elliot Bennet got the better of Patrice Evra, leaving only an isolated Phil Jones between the Norwich winger and the unmarked Morison, only for Bennet’s tame cut back to be easily intercepted by the unflappable Jones preventing a sure tap in. Norwich continued their excellent display, whilst United’s midfield again struggled for the 3rd game in a row, proving to be wasteful in possession and sloppy in tracking back. It took until the half hour mark for the reds to make their first real impression on the game, Darren Fletcher with the header which was scrambled off the line, as Norwich showed signs of wilting under the intense Manchester sun. Rooney perhaps should have given United the lead minutes later, his header from Nani’s corner sailing over from close range, a golden chance in what was a stale first half performance.
The reds continue to rachet up the pressure in the second half, but again it was Norwich who continued to carve out the best opportunities, Morison again was thwarted by a magnificent last gasp tackle by Phil Jones, after the striker had barged his way past Evans. The introduction of Giggs and Welbeck to stem the tide almost had the adverse effect, as immediately Norwich created their best opportunity of the game, after Anthony Pilkington capitalised upon some lapse play from Antonio Valencia, leaving only the onrushing Lindgaard to beat the Norwich frontman could only send his shot agonizingly wide, handing United the reprieve of all reprieves. United took heed of the numerous warnings and finally broke the deadlock just two minutes after Pilkington’s miss, Giggs’s corner creating chaos, allowing Rooney to flick on to the unmarked Anderson who nodded home much to the immense relief of the Old Trafford faithful.
A dogged Norwich side were not willing to relent however, and United had the post to thank for preventing Pilkington’s deflected shot from giving the visitors what would have been a deserved equaliser. And the reds were even more thankful when on 85 minutes, Welbeck put the game beyond doubt after some excellent build up play from Park, who unselfishly squared to the young striker to tap in his 3rd goal in 2 games, and earn himself a call up to the England squad. Whilst the performance raised many doubts, United go into the international break top of the league, and now have a few weeks to try and patch up the catalogue of defensive injuries which have so far nearly de railed what has been one of our best starts to the season in a long time. Next up for United, the small matter of a trip to the old enemy, Liverpool.
Lindegaard – 6 Made a few impressive saves, distribution need working on.
Valencia – 5 Starting to get found out at RB now. Need Smalling back.
Jones – 7 MOTM Magnificent last ditch defending and ball carrying ability.
Evans – 5 Caught out by Morison on several occasions.
Evra – 5 Easily out maneuvered and positionally all over the place.
Nani – 6 Not his best game this season.
Fletcher – 6 Still yet to impress since returning from injury.
Anderson – 6 Well taken goal but passing radar horribly skewed.
Park – 7 Tireless and created 2nd goal brilliantly.
Rooney – 6 Didn’t quite look match fit but was a threat for United.
Hernandez – 5 Constantly offside, yet to regain sharpness from last season.
Giggs – 7 Turned the game as he so often does.
Welbeck – 7 Injected the goal threat that Hernandez had failed to provide.
Ferdinand – 6 Restored a small amount of calm to the defence.