Man United 4 Norwich 0: Three talking points
Man United 4 Norwich 0: Three talking points as Ryan Giggs makes a winning start as interim manager
Show me the way to go home
Whoever gets the Manchester United job permanently – and the rumours surrounding Louis van Gaal are gathering pace – the new man’s top priority is crystal clear. They must play ‘the Manchester United way’. What that amounts to is not entirely clear, but it probably doesn’t involve scoring 36 fewer league goals than Liverpool and 31 fewer than Manchester City. It also doesn’t involve a home record which, before today’s game, would have left them in the bottom half of such a table. These, then, were two things which caretaker manager Ryan Giggs would have been looking to address straight away. The first half of today’s game in particular, however, was the epitome of lethargy. Before the game, Giggs had emphasised that he was picking two strikers, but Welbeck was regularly pulling out wide, while until the penalty, Rooney was largely anonymous. The crowd had put down their marker, exhorting the team, within the first ten seconds, to “attack, attack, attack”, but there was no exhilarating start such as we have been getting used to from Liverpool this season. It took a scruffily-won penalty just before half time to put United ahead before they pulled away second half, and the new man in the Old Trafford dugout will not, in truth, want to take much from this game. Of course, in any event, there are other methods of defining success. David Moyes can point to a win ratio in his time at the club which is second only to Sir Alex Ferguson in the post-war era. There is another manager in the league who has recently drawn attention to a high win ratio. A man who also marked his first game in charge with a public switch to two up front. That man is Tim Sherwood.
Canaries lacking chirp
For 34 minutes on Saturday afternoon, between Ashkan Dejagah’s rocket for Fulham and Shane Long’s stooping header for Hull, it looked like it was all over for Norwich. As the table stood in between those two goals, they were in the bottom three. And perhaps they took a little too much heart from the Tigers’ late turnaround. For the first half at least today, they were as organised they had been under Chris Hughton, but, again as under their former manager, they offered very little going forward. There was a perplexing lack of urgency, exemplified in the 15th minute when Leroy Fer won the ball well in midfield but then meandered forward before flopping over to win an insignificant free kick. Even the penalty came from a bobbling ball across the area which passed through oddly unviolated. All of which means that only a draw between Sunderland and Cardiff tomorrow will keep the Canaries’ heads above water going into May. While the teams below them do need to pick up points, the margins here are extremely tight, and Norwich will probably have to get something at Chelsea or at home to Arsenal. They will not do so without upping the tempo from today’s performance.
Pressure off in the dugouts?
The importance of this game for the teams (particularly Norwich) notwithstanding, the recent sackings of David Moyes and Chris Hughton have left two managers in charge who personally have little to lose. Ryan Giggs, in the home dugout, looks unlikely to be Manchester United’s boss next season, and unless his teams capitulate over the next three games to Newcastle-like proportions, his nascent managerial reputation is under no real threat. At Carrow Road, meanwhile, Neil Adams’s appointment, in the short term at least, was a shot to nothing. Albeit in defeat, his team did not disgrace themselves against Fulham in his first game, they put up a good fight against Liverpool, and until the second goal at least, they were fairly organised today. If Norwich do go down, one suspects that it is unlikely to hurt Adams’s chances of either a more prominent role in the next administration or obtaining a manager’s job elsewhere. And in truth, it was difficult to avoid a perception that the lack of pressure on both managers filtered through to their teams today, which raises the question – does late-season managerial change simply build in an excuse for failure?