Tuesday 20 February 2018

Wellbeck sees off plucky Canaries as underdogs push United to limit

Man Utd 2
Norwich 0,

Rory Smith

At the summit of the Premier League, unbeaten, with 24 goals scored in just seven games and his team's aura of invincibility slowly choking the rest of the division, it would be a churlish man, indeed, who would not be satisfied with Manchester United's opening statement in defence of their title.

Alex Ferguson, though, does not enter the international break with the air of a man at ease with his world. The 69-year-old's words to describe his side in recent days seem to have stopped well short of the lavish praise their free-running, free-thinking style has attracted from outside Old Trafford.

They have been lax, and careless. Cavalier, even, with all of its connotations of naivety, of reckless courage. After a slender, tense victory over newly-promoted Norwich, secured by late goals from Anderson and Danny Welbeck, he added that they were gritty and determined. It is an improvement, but hardly a ringing endorsement.


This, though, is United, and their manager is Ferguson. Theirs is a dogma which prizes artistry and elan, of course, but which demands above all else relentlessness, 90 minutes of blitzkrieg until the desired result is attained.

Few observers would suggest United should shout from the rooftops that they beat Paul Lambert's impressive team. To those inside Old Trafford, though, it spoke volumes. "It was difficult," admitted Phil Jones, the 19-year-old defender who now appears a cornerstone of United's side.

"It was very frustrating. They made it hard and we had to be patient. That is what the manager said at half-time: be patient, move the ball quicker and we would get our rewards in the end."

That they did, in truth, owed far more to Norwich -- and the vicissitudes of fortune -- than it did to United's rearguard.

Anthony Pilkington, a trainee at United as a youngster, should have scored a hat-trick, seeing one effort deflected away by Jonny Evans, placing another wide and seeing a third ricochet onto a post, with Anders Lindegaard beaten. Only when Welbeck tapped home after exchanging passes with Ji-Sung Park to add to Anderson 's header were the hosts safe.

For all of Jones' confidence that winning when playing badly is a harbinger of glory, United's defence melted away against Basel and, against a better or a luckier side, would have done the same on this occasion. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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