What we learned from Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United

The Red Devils weren't at their best as a season's worth of underachievement was highlighted.

What we learned from Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United
Manchester United limped to a win thanks to Juan Mata's late winner. | Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

For most of this season, Manchester United have been accused of retreating into tepid, uninspiring play and even though victory was secured away to Norwich City on Saturday the signs of progress that United have been showing once again looked to be gone.

United lack a plan B

The biggest news came before the game as Anthony Martial was for the second time this season pulled during warm-up with a hamstring problem. What resulted was what could easily be termed as a fractured Manchester United struggling through the first half, rarely showing any major threat of attack and consistently retreating on itself in order to prevent a team that was battling certain relegation from mountain any attack. 

Wayne Rooney is one of the most impressive strikers of his generation and he spent most of the first half tucked into midfield (along with, it must be said, most of the team) with Juan Mata taking on the role of advanced forward. Obviously, the team was thrown into chaos with Martial going down to injury right before the game but this exposed a problem that has been consistent for United: there is not a plan B. When the best option for attack features pushing a creative midfielder who lacks pace to the front serious questions should be asked.

As they have been all season.

United's average formation at halftime looked more like a car crash than a football team. | Source: NBC Sports
United's average formation at halftime looked more like a car crash than a football team. | Source: NBC Sports

Lingard is not a central midfielder

Jesse Lingard has been a creative, dynamic if raw talent on the wings all season - he still has a way to go but he has at least shown promise in forcing teams to stretch the play. Instead of once again utilizing the promising talent he was instead shunted inside towards what can only be assumed as a box to box midfielder role in which his play can only be summed up as dreadful. Not only managing not to complete a single key pass (Juan Mata completed four despite almost being pulled from the game at one point), he only completed a dismal two tackles. 

Tthis wasn't a game against Arsenal, or Manchester City, or even Southampton. This was against a team that would be guaranteed relegation with a loss.

Manchester United need to stop playing Football Manager and start playing real football because barely pipping a result against a team obviously not suited to be in the same division as them should be unacceptable.