Sunday 25 February 2018

Zaha serves notice that Fergie's final act may yet prove inspired

Manchester United 4 Norwich 0

Luke Edwards

Manchester United finally remembered why they spent £15m on Wilfried Zaha and were reminded once more why Adnan Januzaj is the most exciting forward to have emerged from their academy since Paul Scholes as they breezed past Norwich City.

Two goals from Javier Hernandez and one each from Phil Jones and Fabio gave United a routine League Cup fourth-round victory that offered a glimpse of an attacking combination that could terrorise defences for years to come. We already knew about Januzaj, but there was enough pace, trickery and intelligent delivery from Zaha to suggest the money spent on him was not wasted.

This was the first competitive game for the former Crystal Palace forward since Alex Ferguson made him his final signing. His failure to make an appearance under Moyes had started to raise questions as to whether Ferguson had made an error in judgement before retiring.

It was also the sort of opportunity England manager Roy Hodgson would have been keen to see him given after handing the winger his England debut only three days after he had started for United in the Community Shield at Wembley. Zaha had been tipped to be one of the season's breakthrough stars who would push for a World Cup place.

Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard was also given his first start under Moyes, although the presence of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic gave the United line-up a seniority not appreciated by the visitors.

Norwich also made changes, eight of them, from the side that drew with Cardiff, and started well, Nathan Redmond going from the halfway line to the edge of the area without a tackle made. His shot flew wide.

Zaha's first contribution was a telling one. Darting on to Januzaj's ball he delivered a good cross into the feet of Hernandez. Ryan Bennett did well to clear. Zaha did even better moments later, beating full-back Javier Garrido on the right flank before putting a dangerous cross into the six-yard box.

Johan Elmander had a shot deflected on to the roof of the net at the other end, but United took the lead with their next attack. Januzaj twisted inside the area, Leroy Fer made brought him down, a soft penalty to concede. Hernandez dispatched it.

Januzaj almost scored a sublime second with a curling strike from 25 yards and had two goalbound shots blocked by Sebastien Bassong.

Zaha continued to do well and there was growing expectation whenever he picked up the ball. He stuck to his defensive tasks too. Norwich were struggling, yet remained in the game. Moyes men needed a second to make things comfortable.

Fer reinforced that when he headed a free-kick over the bar early in the second half while Elmander was a little unfortunate not to steer a Redmond centre into the far corner.

Hernandez, though, snuffed out the fightback. Alexander Buttner put over a perfect cross and, although Bunn did brilliantly to keep out the first header, Hernandez nodded the ball past him at the second attempt.

Norwich came back strongly. Redmond left Buttner standing, chipped a cross to the far post and Lindegaard saved well from Robert Snodgrass's header.

Worryingly, Snodgrass did not get up, a clash of heads with Rafael ending his evening. There was a lengthy delay as he was treated on the pitch before he was carried off breathing through an oxygen mask.

The six-minute pause broke the game's flow, although Zaha did almost play Ashley Young in with a neat pass using the outside of his boot and the majestic Januzaj almost stroked a shot into the bottom corner at the end of another menacing run.

Wayne Rooney replaced Zaha with just over 10 minutes remaining. He left the pitch to warm applause and will feel far better for his work here.

A loan move in January may still follow, but this was a good performance and bodes well for the future. He has been slow to take his first steps as a United player, but they were confident ones.

Jones gave United's evening a final gloss when he sent a crisp volley past Bunn just before the fourth official announced 11 minutes of added time.

Substitute Fabio then scored the fourth with his first touch, tucking in Rooney's delicious pass. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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