Manchester United 4 Norwich 0 match report: Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata get Ryan Giggs off to perfect start in the hot seat
United’s interim manager stamps his authority in the first game of the post-Moyes era and sees his team cruise to an easy victory
For more than a fleeting moment, a revised assessment of the David Moyes era seemed necessary. Manchester United were labouring badly when a plane bearing the banner 'Thank you Moyes' flew over the stadium and there was a hushed sense that perhaps the struggles of the last eight months were not all about him.
That was before Ryan Giggs delivered a half time team-talk which made this a very firm statement of his own intent to manage Manchester United now, not just when a Dutch football general has finished rebuilding it. Nothing terribly complicated. “I just said quicken up the tempo and it'll be ok,” Giggs reflected. But by early evening, he and Paul Scholes were taking it in turns to “give us a wave” and a momentum had been established which - if maintained for three more games - will make this a very difficult place for Louis van Gaal to arrive and assume control.
Not as difficult as the task facing Chris Adams, a point above third bottom Fulham with Chelsea and Arsenal to play. Norwich lost their grip on the match desperately and everything that might be said about this emphatic first Giggs foray in management should be qualified by a measure of how dreadfully Adams' players capitulated, after a promising 40 minutes.
It was the less experienced of the two novices who revealed a teak toughness, though. “Did I sleep last night? 'No', in a word. Leaving out the players was the reason why I didn't sleep,” Giggs said, yet that didn't stop the decision to make six changes and leave out the two players - Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata - whom Moyes had bought. The future looks a bleak place for Fellaini but Mata's two goals - the first within three minutes of appearing - revealed much about the force of his own personality.
So implicit was the belief that what Giggs had described as “my philosophy” would be immediate that the chants of “attack, attack, attack” came from the Stretford End within a mere 15 seconds. But the question of how United might be shaken from their slough became complicated. There was no all-out attack. For Rooney, simply keeping his feet on an over-watered pitch looked like the greatest challenge, never mind the “shoot, tackle, play” mantra Giggs had imparted.
It was Norwich who seemed to have spoiled the picture inside 15 minutes when Jonny Howson swept home a half volley from inside the six-yard box, only to have his goal disallowed for marginal push on Phil Jones by Ricky van Wolfswinkel as he nodded Robert Snodgrass' cross back into danger. It was also Norwich who defended valiantly - Michael Turner's dexterity in blocking off Shinji Kagawa one of many good moments.
The United dug-out was a study in concentration - Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes chewing incessantly while Giggs just stared - but their team's powers of attack paled by comparison with those Liverpool displayed, as they piled through the same opposition, seven days ago. Tom Cleverley was restored to the team but not to the prospect he once seemed to be, Shinji Kagawa flickered very intermittently and the overall impression of a first half which United just about emerged from with a lead was that Giggs can deliver no more than Moyes without pace and creative spark a his disposal.
Antonio Valencia did look reinvigorated, edging into the area and delivering the low, right-footed shot which brought one of many sharp stops from John Ruddy. But it took defensive incompetence to gift Giggs his first goal as manager. Phil Jones' low cross was missed by Turner and Russell Martin in turn. When Welbeck seized the gift Steven Whittaker pulled him by the sleeve in the six-yard box for a penalty which Rooney gratefully converted.
It did not take long to discover the effects of the Giggs hairdryer, if that his is implement of choice. Rooney started the onslaught which would deliver three goals in 25 minutes - collecting the ball which Kagawa, pushing deep into Norwich territory, had delivered and striking it from just outside the area, slipping yet again as it went in off Ruddy's left hand post. A Welbeck half volley was clawed away by the goalkeeper and Nemanja Vidic's header flew just over the bar
The United substitutions - Kagawa and Cleverey departed - suggested those Giggs felt had not cut it. When another Rooney shot was parried away, and recycled from the byline for Phil Jones to cross, Mata was waiting to pounce for a United third. Norwich's defence had capitulated entirely when Valencia volleyed a shot into six-yard box which Mata placed a head on for four.
There was a brief incursion on United's goal before the end - Martin Olsson's deflected shot clipping the top of the bar but the sight of Javier Hernandez chasing free onto Mata's pass in the final minute - somehow shooting wide with the goal at his mercy - told that something dangerous might be forming. There would be no day's rest on Sunday, Giggs declared before leaving the stadium. He is taking his chance while he has it.
Manchester United (4-4-2 ): De Gea; Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley (Hernandez, 71 ), Kagawa (Young, 65); Welbeck (Mata, 60), Rooney.
Norwich (4-5-1): Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; Johnson, Fer (Tettey, 80), Howson; Snodgrass, Redmond (Hooper, 69); Van Wolfswinkel (Elmander, 57).
Referee: Lee Probert.
Man of the match: Rooney (Manchester Utd).
Match rating: 7/10.
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