Manchester United got a much needed Premier League win on the road against Championship-bound Norwich City on Sunday. Despite missing two first half penalties, United made relatively easy work of the Canaries, with goals from Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial getting the Reds all three points. Despite conceding another soft goal late on, it was a commendable performance from a team that may just be rounding into form again. Here are three things we learned.
Play. The. Kids.
It is a curious thing to be baying for the inclusion of more youth when half of the outfield players who started on Saturday are all no older than 23. Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Daniel “Dan” James, Scott McTominay, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are all still young enough where they would in theory benefit by being surrounded by senior players. But at least two of those senior players who started on Sunday are — quite frankly — rubbish, and both have been shown up in recent weeks by (much) younger alternatives.
Ashley Young has become an easy target for United fans this season, mostly because he isn’t very good at football anymore. It’s not his fault that he is still a first choice player and club captain, however, and if nothing else, his commitment and professionalism cannot be doubted. That said, Brandon Williams has arrived. The teenager’s dynamic performance on Thursday was better than anything Young has offered this season, and while it may be sensible to ease him into the first XI, it would be baffling if he hadn’t displaced Young by the next international break.
The same applies to James Garner, who had an impressive late cameo on Sunday. Garner is a classy presence on the ball, and looks comfortable in a deep midfield role, despite his relative lack of physicality. No matter how much Solskjaer tries, Fred will never become a thing. Stop trying to make Fred a thing. While Nemanja Matić is “injured” (pull the other one, Ole), Garner should be first choice.
Martial is the key to the attack
Statistics never reveal the full picture, but United’s record under Solskjaer with and without Anthony Martial in the side is telling. The Frenchman’s presence up front is key to any chance of a fluid attack, something that the manager was happy to admit post-match:
“He’s clever in his movement. We feel Anthony is an important player for us and we’ve felt the effect of him not being there so of course, I’m pleased to have him back and scoring goals.”
At this point in their respective careers, Martial is better than Rashford is as a center forward, and the Frenchman’s movement up top also allows his English attacking partner more room in which to operate from the left. Not many opponents will be as generous as Norwich were, but it’s clear that having Martial in the team adds a dynamic that is just not available in his absence.
Can anyone score a penalty?
Sunday marked the first time in Premier League history that a pair of teammates have managed to both score and each miss a penalty. That may or not be true, but it sounds right. Tim Krul had an unbelievable game, but both penalty saves were relatively routine. Both Rashford and Martial hit their spot kicks at a comfortable height, and both failed to deceive the Norwich ‘keeper.
Put De Gea on the next one, FFS.