By Rasmus Lukunka
First and foremost, congratulations to Chris Hughton and his team for their well-deserved victory against Man United. Hughton is slowly but surely forcing the doubters to take notice of his managerial skills. A victory against a side like United is no small accomplishment for a team like Norwich City, or any side for that matter. While other managers would be running up the sidelines and savoring the moment, Houghton depicted a cool and calm demeanor; job well done!
After the match, Sir Alex Ferguson admitted the best team won. Norwich played an open game and showed no fear. With United’s leaky defense under strict orders to avoid conceding first, there was little Chris Smalling could have done to stop Pilkington from scoring a spectacular glancing header 15 minutes into the second half.
Although United managed to win 11 games after conceding first so far this season, their failure to create clear chances before Pilkington’s goal signaled danger to Sir Alex and his men. United managed less than 5 shots and Norwich were looking solid with no signs of a weakness.
At that point, it was clear only a piece of individual brilliance would save United’s day. With Van Persie looking far from his best and squandering two opportunities similar to those he clinically put away last season with Arsenal, the picture was looking less favourable for United and Sir Alex would have accepted a point.
With United dominating Norwich in possession, there was a sense of predictability about their approach. Once again, United’s midfielders were exposed for their ‘lack of creativity’ as most of the attacks went through Young and Valencia on the wings. Often very effective, even Valencia accomplished very little after all his labour. After a decent show for England against Sweden, Young was ineffective for United. His crosses were particularly poor and he failed to take advantage of the rare one-on-one situations.
The center of the pitch lacked penetration. The likes Kagawa and Cleverly would have made a difference, perhaps. Anderson came on as a late substitute but made little impact as Norwich held on.
Against Norwich, United clearly missed a creative player with the ability to dominate in one-on-one situations. Christiano Ronaldo gave United a sense of unpredictability. He took players on, dribbled & penetrated, passed and scored.
Nani provided some of that unpredictable spark on occasions during last couple of seasons. Sir Alex saw more than a glimpse of potential in Nani to eventually grant Ronaldo permission to join Real Madrid. Unfortunately for United, not only has Nani failed to fulfill the void left by his countryman, he is also costing United points on the board. The difference between Ronaldo and Nani is simple; Ronaldo is mentally strong. Nani can emulate the majority of Ronaldo’s tricks, but he doesn’t come close to the mental strength required to succeed at a team like United.
Following the defeat to Norwich, Sir Alex’s priority should be to offload Nani and bring in a player with the ability and mental toughness to do half of what Ronaldo did, exceptionally well.
About the Author: Rasmus Lukunka was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia and has been living in the United States since 1996. He’s been a keen follower of the English Premier League since its inception.Rasmus has been a contributor to OldTrafford.com since November, 2011. He has also worked with several local newspapers and sports affiliate websites to promote the game of Football(Soccer) in the United States. As a Banker for one of the largest financial institutions in the US, Rasmus is passionate about helping individuals achieve their financial goals.