Norwich City vs Manchester United: Five things we learned as Harry Maguire scores late winner

The Canaries came within two minutes of another penalty shootout

Karl Matchett
Saturday 27 June 2020 20:21 BST
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Norwich City took Manchester United to extra time in the FA Cup, before succumbing to a 118th-minute winner.

The best chances of the first half fell the way of the home side, with Todd Cantwell and Kenny McLean firing over as United laboured to create anything clear-cut.

United came out after the break clearly intent on an improvement and it took just five minutes for the goal to arrive, Odion Ighalo hooking in from close-range.

Todd Cantwell crashed in an equaliser with 15 minutes left on the clock to force extra time, though Norwich centre-back Timm Klose was sent-off in the closing stages of the 90 minutes and Harry Maguire scored just before penalties would have given the Canaries a fighting chance of progression.

United now move into the semi-finals, where they await three more sides—with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all in action on Sunday. Here are five things we learned from Carrow Road.

Surprise from Ole without full-strength side

Given Manchester United’s season can only really be termed a success now if they add trophies to the cabinet, it was a surprise to see so many changes in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting XI.

With Chelsea showing good form and consistency, Champions League football is only likely to arrive through either their local rival’s ban being upheld or by winning the Europa League.

As such, this game may have been seen as an opportunity to build trophy-chasing momentum, rather than an opportunity to give fringe players some minutes.

The result was a disjointed performance, lacking cohesion and clear patterns in their build-up play in the first 45 minutes, with Solskjaer presumably demanding a lot more from his team at the break, judging by how quickly they showed an improvement after the restart.

Confirmation of Cantwell’s class

Norwich goalscorer Todd Cantwell
Norwich goalscorer Todd Cantwell (EPA)

Not that it was needed after a very good first season in the Premier League on an individual level, but Todd Cantwell again showed that he is easily talented enough to play at a far higher level.

The reality of Norwich’s position is that they will sell players for decent transfer fees, enabling them to continue buying others and improving the side overall without over-spending.

Cantwell is surely the next youngster in line for a move to a bigger side, showing against United that he possesses an enviable blend of hard work and subtle creativity.

His jinking runs in off the left gave the Canaries the best couple of chances of the first half, while he is always an outlet on the counter-attack, involved in Norwich’s best build-up play.

To top it off, he produced a fantastic low drive which found the bottom corner, putting his team back in the match before being subbed shortly before extra time began.

Ighalo’s ongoing impact

Odion Ighalo celebrates after putting United in front
Odion Ighalo celebrates after putting United in front (Reuters)

He might not be a starter every week, but Ighalo showed once again why he can play a valuable role for United when they need a goal.

Their cup striker has scored in every game he has started for the Red Devils and has five in 11 appearances across all competitions.

There’s power and aerial ability in his game, but also an instinct in taking up dangerous positions and having that knack of getting any part of the body, in any way necessary, to send a shot on target.

When they come from as close to goal as his did against Norwich, they invariably have a high chance of ending up in the back of the net.

Extra subs, extra time, extra chances

One of the big arguments against using additional substitutes after football’s restart is that it favours bigger teams with deeper squads.

That was hugely evident at Carrow Road, with United making six subs in a game for the first time—the expanded five, plus the additional one allowed when games go to extra time.

It meant Solskjaer’s team ended up with an attacking array of talent on the pitch which included Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Ighalo, all at the same time—against ten-men Norwich’s defence.

With 30 minutes for that group to find the breakthrough, it wasn’t a surprise that United finally found a way through—with Martial, Pogba and Rashford all involved in the build-up to Maguire’s winner.

Chances of silverware

As long as Manchester City remain in the FA Cup, they will be the favourites and rightly so.

But after that it looks an open field; several teams who are capable of winning big games on their day, but who have lacked overall consistency this season.

United will fancy their chances, in part because of the array of attacking talent noted above, but also because they have hit a run of good results at a key time in the season.

An FA Cup win and Champions League qualification would make it an excellent campaign for Solskjaer and his team—but work remains to achieve either one.

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