Norwich City vs. Manchester United: Score, Analysis and Grades
Playing a Manchester United squad without superstar Wayne Rooney, Norwich City shocked the world on Saturday and defeated the Red Devils 1-0 to capture a critical three points in Premier League play.
Manchester United missed their star, who had to sit out due to an ankle injury, especially on the attack.
The first half saw the two squads trudge through a relatively ugly and uneventful affair, with neither side making much headway.
However, for what should have been an overmatched team like the Canaries, an ugly match played right into their hands. All it takes is one goal to make an unforeseen upset happen, and that's exactly what Norwich City got on Saturday.
The underdogs' goal came in the 63rd minute as Anthony Pilkington came soaring through the United defense and knocked home a header off of a beautiful cross from Javier Garrido. ESPN's Dale Johnson sent out a beautiful look of the goal via his Twitter account:
From there, it was all about holding Manchester United off, and Norwich did just that to finish with a 1-0 victory.
The Canaries won the match despite United controlling possession for 62 percent of the match. While that would normally signal a lucky victory, that percentage had more to do with the Red Devils' inability to create good goal-scoring opportunities.
For Manchester United, this is nothing short of an angering loss. The Red Devils came into this week's fixture with the lead in the EPL table, and they will now cede that to rival Manchester City.
As for Norwich City, Saturday's match is cause for celebration for a plethora of reasons. First and foremost, a victory over Manchester United is almost season-defining for the lower-budget club. What's more, winning creates much-needed room for the Canaries to avoid dreaded relegation.
With the match concluded, let's get to everyone's favorite portion of the program and grade Saturday's important players.
Anthony Pilkington, Norwich City: A
While he wasn't anyone's choice for the likeliest hero of Saturday, Pilkington's goal in the 63rd minute left the Carrow Road crowd shocked.
The young midfielder came soaring through and headed a beautiful shot past goal. Unsung heroes are oftentimes the big winners in upsets like this, and that certainly was the case on Saturday.
Pilkington's penetration through the defense was nothing short of brilliant, and he's unquestionably the player of the match.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United: D
Playing without Rooney, the Red Devils desperately needed their other star striker to come through with a brilliant performance.
Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be on Saturday for van Persie. The forward stayed out on the wings far too much in the match and was mostly a non-factor.
Considering the hefty sum in van Persie's checking account, it's not unfair for Manchester United to expect more.
Javier Garrido, Norwich City: A-
Pilkington's goal will get nearly all of the praise in the coming days, but it would not have been possible without Garrido.
The Norwich defenseman sent a beautiful cross soaring toward the middle of the field, where his teammate was at the right place at the right time.
We too often ignore the assist man, but that won't be the case here. Simply a great moment for Garrido.
Ryan Giggs, Manchester United: F
No longer a favorite Red Devils supporters when on the field, Giggs' struggles on Saturday may make the midfielder want to switch lives with Tim Tebow.
United failed consistently to have a presence in the middle for the entire match, and Giggs was a big reason for that. Both Giggs and Michael Carrick's passes were mostly errant throughout the match, leaving frustration boundless for the already-struggling forwards.
In short, Saturday wasn't the greatest way for Giggs to remind fans of the glory days.
John Ruddy, Norwich City: A
Despite making five saves, the Norwich goalkeeper had a relatively easy time on Saturday—especially considering the level of competition.
In fact, perhaps his most difficult stop of the match came off of an errant header by teammate Sebastien Bassong in the final minute.
Still, a clean sheet against Manchester United is something to be proud of, and Ruddy should get the credit he deserves.
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