Ryan Giggs’ tenure as interim manager of Manchester United got off to a fantastic start as Manchester United beat Norwich City today, thanks to braces by Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata. The result was Norwich’s fifth loss in a row, and leaves them perilously close to relegation, as they are only one point above 18th placed Fulham.
Giggs selected an attacking line-up, with Danny Welbeck spearheading the offence and Wayne Rooney slotting in behind him. In the first half alone, Manchester United showed more attacking flair than during the entirety of David Moyes’ reign. Many of their chances were created by the individual brilliance of Shinji Kagawa, or through Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia’s link-up play. Despite United dominating the first half, they were unable to find a breakthrough in the opening half an hour.
The deadlock was broken five minutes before half-time the deadlock from a Wayne Rooney penalty. Welbeck was brought down by Steven Whittaker’s clumsy challenge. The referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot, it was a clear penalty. Rooney stepped up and blasted the ball into the right side of the goal, sending Norwich goalkeeper, John Ruddy, the wrong way. United had their reward for their hard-work and went in 1-0 up at half-time.
Giggs must have said something inspirational at half-time because United came flying out of the blocks in the second-half. They were 2-0 up within two minutes when Rooney scored his second of the game with a curling effort from outside the box. Norwich gave Rooney way too much space, and he took full advantage, despite slipping when he made contact, he curled it past Ruddy. Ruddy’s view was blocked by his defenders, and he was left with no chance.
Norwich had to try and pull a goal back and Robert Snodgrass came closest from a free-kick in the 58th minute that forced David de Gea to make a smart save. Sensing that Norwich were growing into the game, Giggs made his first substitution, bringing Juan Mata on for Welbeck. Mata slotted in behind Rooney, in his familiar number ten role, the role David Moyes rarely used him in. This substitution worked wonders, because Mata brought life into the United side.
In the 63rd minute, Rooney hit a curling effort from outside the box, but this time Ruddy saved well. The rebound fell to Valencia, who cut it back to Jones and from Jones’ cross, Mata added a third, tapping it in from six-yards away. Mata would begin the attack for his second goal, spraying the ball wide to Patrice Evra. Evra’s cross was over-hit and landed at Valencia’s feet. Valencia crossed it back in and Mata glanced it into the left corner, making the score 4-0. In injury time they could have had a fifth goal. Mata played Javier Hernandez clean-through on goal, but he scuffed his shot and missed horribly.
Norwich had some possession near the end, but they were unable to create anything meaningful. They have struggled all season with creating chances, and they looked lost towards the end of the game. This was the best game United has played all season. They looked threatening and played directly. Players were not afraid to take a chance, and those who have played poorly this season, like Valencia, looked completely changed. Giggs will look at this result and be happy, United played well, and finally resembled their form from last season.