Gary Neville has called Manchester United’s performance at Norwich a “mystery” as interim manager Ralf Rangnick aims for more intensity in similar matches.
After an impressive first half against Crystal Palace last weekend in Rangnick’s opener in charge, Neville expected something similar against the bottom of the Premier League.
But it was a lethargic performance from visitors to Carrow Road, with a number of star United players failing to shine. However, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who once again made headlines when he won and converted a penalty in the second half, securing Rangnick his second consecutive league victory.
United also had to thank goalkeeper David de Gea for claiming another clean sheet as he made a series of superb saves to keep Dean Smith’s spirited side at bay.
Reflection on the game, Sky Sports’ Gary Neville said: “It was not a good performance. Against any other team in the league that would have caused them real problems. They are going to Brentford on Tuesday night and they have to do better than that or they will be beaten. I think that they will.
“We were told before the first game and all week that United would be high energy and high pressure. It didn’t exist today. It was really weird to understand what happened with the ball and outside.
“These players will have had a week off to prepare, so I was expecting a fiercely frantic start to the game. Really high pressing, lots of fast play and it was lethargic from the first minute.
“On the ball they were so sloppy it’s wrong. They gave it so many times it was amazing.
“Last week against Crystal Palace I think I had a moment in the game and it was a really confident defensive performance. They had a good structure, they prevented chances, they supported attacks, they have stopped the counterattack.
“Today I thought every other team in the league that had something more about them in terms of quality would have come through Manchester United. There were spaces there in large areas and even in the second half they were crossing the middle of Norwich just didn’t have the cruelty to be able to finish Manchester United.
“I think it was a blank slate in the fact that the goalkeeper made a few saves and the team they were playing against is the worst in the league in an offensive sense.
“I see a manager who is just trying to integrate his principles. If you had told him before that last game against Crystal Palace, you will have two Premier League wins and clean sheets and you will have the opportunity to see all your players in Europe in the middle of the week, it would break your hand.
“One of the things that Ralf Rangnick had to try to solve first was the defensive issues and make them more difficult to face. I don’t think they were difficult to face today.
“The big mystery for me was why Manchester United were so lacking in energy. I thought they would be much better than that, especially with the fact that those players on the pitch had a week off to prepare for this. match.
“So it’s a bit of a mystery about today’s game. We will know a little more after Tuesday’s game, as will Ralf Rangnick. He is always educating his players.
“I think there will be a problem with this system when they face teams with good full-backs who have more quality because Dalot and Telles will be exposed. Fernandes and Sancho won’t be able to get out in time by then a Cancelo, Robertson or Alexander-Arnold rolled down this wing.
“But they have a few months before they face these players and by then I think he will have changed things a bit, he will have gotten to know the players.
“But I think it’s a good start as they won both games. They have to win games and build confidence in the new manager. He will see it as a good week but United will have to improve a lot. to get anything. the next matches. “
Rangnick wants more intensity
Man Utd interim manager Rangnick has been honest about his side’s weaknesses at Carrow Road and has aimed for more intensity in the face of similar games.
He said Air sports: “It was a very physical, intense game, I already told Dean that they were playing extremely well, not at all like a background team. They played like we played against Crystal Palace.
“In the first 15 minutes we struggled tactically but then it was better. In the second half we had better body language up front but we still allowed them too much. shots and corners, so in the end it was De Gea who made sure it was a clean sheet at the end.
“It’s all about intensity, body language, physics. It always has been. If you want to stay in control of a game like this, you have to be physically present, and it wasn’t. not the case in all positions.
“Some of our players are technical players, and today there wasn’t a lot of room for technical solutions, and then you have to be physically brave and compete at that kind of level. We have to increase our level of skill. intensity in matches like this.
“It’s not just a question of individual players, it’s how we play as a team, but it’s also a question of who wins the balls and the second balls.
“We have to improve, we have to improve, for sure. Tuesday against Brentford is a tough game, it will be a challenge for us.”
The interim manager also gave an update on Victor Lindelof, who was replaced in the second half by a mysterious illness, explaining: “He had a collision, he doesn’t even remember what it was, but he had struggling to breathe. He said he felt pain in his chest, but they examined him, they did all the tests and everything seems to be fine. “
Redknapp: United must break terrible habits
Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp has also slammed United, despite the victory, and believes there are key areas they need to improve on as they head into a busy game period.
He said: “They have bad habits that have crept into their game over such a long time. The manager is going to have a tough job changing that. It’s not impossible, but he’s going to have to use a lot of staff, chop and switch players to see who wants to and can do it.
“There are instances where no one is pressing, no one is running, no one is getting out of their position, no one is pointing at someone who is not doing their job.
“This is something that needs to change because when I see other teams like Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea they have players who do and lead by example.
“Manchester United need to get out of these terrible habits they’ve gotten into and make the game too easy to face.
“We’re talking about the pressing game that a lot of modern managers want. There are a lot of players who don’t in this system. Especially when you play with two up front, you leave yourself isolated. The two wide the men. – Sancho and Fernandes – have to run and run when they don’t have it.
“I didn’t think they had enough energy to do it today, but it was three points and they have some really good games ahead of them.
“From that point of view Rangnick will be happy with the points, but I don’t think he can be happy with the performance.”
Smith: It was a soft penalty
Manchester United’s penalty was awarded after Max Aarons came on trial for fouling Ronaldo in the area – a move which sparked an uproar from Norwich both on and off the pitch.
Canaries head coach Dean Smith has expressed disappointment with the decision, as well as other catches during the game.
He said Air sports: “I saw the penalty come back and does it make contact with him in the box? Yes. Does he have his arm raised? Yes. But I can show you five or six different challenges in the game. whether they are inside or outside the box it hasn’t been given in. We are looking for consistency and there is no consistency there.
“I just felt it was too easy for Manchester United to referee the game today – Marcus Rashford allowed himself a free kick in the first half.
“For me there was a build-up during the game. You can’t have players refereeing the game and it was like it was. I’m going to look like a sore loser and can – being that I am, but I don’t think our performance deserved to lose the game. There were some questionable decisions.
“It’s a soft penalty, but there were some soft moments throughout the game where he didn’t give them away, so he has to be consistent.
“We had a great time in the game today. I thought the performance levels were really good. There were times in the first half where we had to defend, but I thought we gave them the game in the second half and in planes really created good chances.
“But we know we have to improve ourselves in these great times because they are the ones who will get us out of danger.”