Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United: Talking points and reaction

Jamie McDonald

Manchester United gained a dour win over Norwich City, but the table could make for far better reading in a few days, and the decision to play the game early seems to have been the right one. Yet some of the fringe players are simply not impressing.

Manchester United had the option to move this game until tomorrow, thus giving themselves more rest time, but elected not to. Quite a gamble from David Moyes, but one that could well pay off now that we'll have an extra day than Tottenham to recover before we play them at Old Trafford on New Year's Day.

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With Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young even managing to do useful things of late, is Shinji Kagawa now our worst player this season? He created absolutely nothing once again today and missed a fine opportunity to put United in the lead in comic fashion, as well as being unable to control the ball. He was highly touted for an excellent season, but he seems to be getting worse and worse.

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Chris Smalling is still not a right-back, but Chris Smalling is still a very good defender.

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Darren Fletcher looks like a far better option than Michael Carrick at this point. As well as offering more steel and being able to deploy himself higher up the pitch, he gives the ball away far less. It's no coincidence that United's best run of form of the season has coincided with Carrick being absent while the team looked lethargic as soon as he was reintroduced. Other first-teamers may have been missing too, but this is a team that our reserves beat 4-0 in the aftermath of his injury.

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Danny Welbeck scores goals when he plays up front - it's as simple as that. It's why he has a fine record for England, and he looks like he could easily be a 20-goal-a-season striker if he was given the spot on a full-time basis. With Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie lurking, that seems unlikely, but when the Dutchman returns, it would be nice to occasionally see him paired with Welbeck, or at least to see some more fluidity to allow Welbeck to get into better positions.

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And another thing about Welbeck - he seems to only score important goals. For such a mentally weak team, United have an awful lot of big-game players who can turn a game at precisely the correct moment. Welbeck is one of the best.

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With Chelsea and Liverpool playing each other tomorrow, and Arsenal facing a difficult trip away to Newcastle, the table could well be looking pretty rosy by New Year's Eve. A win against Tottenham would surely put us right back in the picture, particularly with the prospect of January reinforcements.

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The main promising sign that we aren't out of the title race is this - other teams, when having bad games, have simply shown up in a clueless manner and not been able to rectify a thing. Manchester City against Cardiff, Chelsea on several occasions, and Arsenal against us. Comebacks have been few and far between, and United look like the only side in the league capable of digging themselves out of a hole with any confidence. The problem is that we've been asked to do it too often - but once things start to get really tight, there's a lot to suggest that this team still has enough winning mentality to see itself through.

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