Fourth-place still possible
For all of their poor results over the last few months, Manchester United are still, somehow, in with a chance of securing Champions League football at the end of the season. Next week’s trip to Arsenal will likely be the pivotal performance in their pursuit, but Saturday proved that the race is far from over yet.
With Tottenham losing in the early kick-off and Arsenal also coming unstuck against Southampton the race remains very much wide open, even if the winner stumbles over the line rather than races through the finish tape.
United might be an extremely flawed team, but so are Arsenal and Tottenham. None of them deserves fourth place ahead of the others, though one of them has to get it.
READ MORE: Manchester United player ratings as Cristiano Ronaldo great and David de Gea good vs Norwich
Youngsters in the squad
Ralf Rangnick warned ahead of the match that Hannibal and Alejandro Garnacho probably wouldn’t feature despite being included in the matchday squad, but it was still a breath of fresh air to see them both named on the bench.
United started the game with two midfielders who will leave the club for free at the end of the season, while Nemanja Matic also confirmed his impending departure on the eve of the game.
With an interim manager comes a short-term vision, and although Rangnick’s focus is on finishing the season strong, many fans would love to see youth given a chance over players whose futures are so clearly elsewhere.
United have a simple Cristiano Ronaldo answer
The talk of a new manager brings with it more tedious debate about Cristiano Ronaldo. He is the greatest goalscorer in the history of the men’s game and United should look to keep him at all costs.
His second hat-trick of the season made it 21 goals in all competitions since his homecoming last summer. Once again, his individual brilliance from him masked his teammates’ blushes.
Even if he does not fit perfectly into the mold of the United team, he is a constant threat in the final third and continues to provide his worth with the most valuable commodity in football. Goals win you games, and United are always going to get more when they have Ronaldo in their attacking line up.
United’s next manager needs to do everything in his power to convince him to stay.
Paul Pogba gives United a transfer blueprint
United were limited to what they could do in midfield given the injuries to Scott McTominay and Fred, but it was quite clear they were saving Nemanja Matic for the trip to Anfield early next week.
In their place, Paul Pogba started at the base of a midfield three and he showcased the importance of having a deep-lying player who is comfortable with their feet and possesses a wide passing range. It helped United’s case that they were playing against a lowly Norwich side, but you only have to look at recent results to realize such matches don’t equate to wins.
The Frenchman will leave United at the end of the season and his poor positioning for the Norwich goal proved he is not a viable defensive midfield solution even if he stayed, though he does offer the blueprint of the type of player required in the role.
United might be looking for a specialist defensive midfielder this summer, but whoever it is they do sign also needs to be comfortable with the ball at their feet.
United’s pre-match protest was another powerful showcase of the ill-feeling towards the Glazer ownership of the club, but the real statement came when the match was underway. Even before the 17th minute walk-in, Old Trafford was packed with supporters, nearly all of whom stood up when an early rendition of ‘stand up if you hate Glazers’ echoed around the famous ground.
There is still a sense of irony in protesting against the owners while funding their regime by purchasing tickets and club merchandise, though it is totally understandable why fans still want to watch their team in the flesh.
But if change is going to happen, the weekend’s displays need to be built upon with further peaceful protests that will actually be noticed by the owners.