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ANALYSIS: Manchester United 4-0 Norwich City

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The Manchester United way – attack, attack, attack!

Freedom. That is the biggest difference between Old Trafford performances under David Moyes and Ryan Giggs. Admittedly it was only Norwich, a team who look increasingly likely to be relegated this season, but there was a significant difference in the way United approached this game compared to any of the home games under the previous manager, even when confidence was high earlier in the season.

The formation was not overly different to the way Moyes regularly set the team up, but there were important differences in application. Two central midfielders, three in front of them and one up front. Once again there was one traditional winger in Antonio Valencia on one side and a more creative midfielder in Shinji Kagawa on the other. Wayne Rooney was once again the lone front man.

The most noticeable difference today was the control United had over the game. Throughout the season at Old Trafford it has been far too easy for the opposition to play through United on the break, and it has cost the home side against West Brom, Everton and Newcastle to name just three. Today was a different story completely and it stems from subtle changes to the way United attacked Norwich. Under Moyes the two central midfielders would sit quite deep in attacks and try to feed the four players beyond them. This caution actually became detrimental to United as they were often unable to pin the opposition into their defensive third with increased pressure, so when the attacks broke down the opposition could get several men forward and make the most of the counter attack.

Against Norwich this afternoon the changes to the attacking philosophy allowed United to apply that exact kind of pressure which really prevented Norwich from counter-attacking with any real conviction. The midfield partnership was developed from a double pivot under Moyes to a single pivot under Giggs, and the pressure on Norwich was clear to see. Tom Cleverley was released from the shackles of sitting alongside Carrick and was able to provide an attacking option further up the pitch. This system also suited Carrick more as he is given more freedom to select his passes and has more options and angles to find teammates when his midfield partner joined the attack. It is something I touched upon following the victory at Selhurst Park, Carrick ran the game then and he had a greater influence today than he has had in recent weeks too.

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Freedom was the operative word today, and the entire shape of the side offensively was far more purposeful this evening. United imposed themselves on Norwich, rather than worrying so much about the opposition. Under Moyes there was rotation and interchanging between the forward players, but it often felt like a token effort. Today was different, and Welbeck was often the key to it. When Rooney dropped deep to receive the ball, Welbeck ran beyond him to stretch the defence. If Kagawa rotated inside to affect the play, then Welbeck went wide and took up the Japanese international’s previous position. The movement was such that United could attack from every possible angle and really prevent Norwich from dealing with the danger and clearing their lines, which prevented the counter attack and created more and more pressure on the away side.

The role of the fullbacks today was greatly improved also. It has been recently reported in the media that Leighton Baines has said Martinez has removed the shackles that had been placed on him by Moyes, allowing him to get further forward, express himself and affect the game in an offensive capacity. It looked as if Giggs had done the same today, and the fullbacks contributed to the high pressure game that United played this evening. By giving Evra and Jones the licence to go forward and spend the majority of their time in the opponents half, it had a direct impact on so many other areas of the game. The Norwich wingers were forced to track back in order to stop the threat from wide areas, further limiting the opportunities for the counter attack. Additionally, it gave Carrick more space in central midfield as there were fewer bodies in Norwich’s midfield to get close and shut him down. With so many bodies going forward at every given opportunity, coupled with proactive and purposeful movement, Norwich simply couldn’t cope and United ran out comfortable winners. Tonight’s performance was not enough to suggest United are back to their best, but they were back to doing what they do at Old Trafford, bullying smaller teams into submission with fast, free-flowing football. It does get you wondering, if United have such success in this system with Tom Cleverley in midfield, imagine what could happen if Toni Kroos was signed and deployed in the same role?

I will finish this article by making it clear, I am not simply Moyes bashing in my criticisms of our previous displays. I always appreciated the job he did at Everton and he is clearly a very good manager. Unfortunately he did not quite have what it takes to be a success at United, and his approach just wasn’t the right one. Giggs does understand, and he was able to set the wheels in motion for a comfortable win. This club is built on foundations of attacking football, and that’s what we wanted to see from David Moyes. He couldn’t deliver that, but moving forward it looks as if the smiles can return to Old Trafford faces. Well done Giggsy, same again next week please.

By Adem Berkay

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