Manchester United 4-0 Norwich City: 6 Things We Learned
With memories of the Canaries 1-0 win at Carrow Road earlier in the season fresh in the minds of many players, their 4-0 win Saturday was made all the sweeter.
Shinji Kagawa was the man on target, scoring an unlikely hat-trick, while Wayne Rooney rounded things off with a terrific long-range cracker in the 90th minute.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Shinji Kagawa Must Start vs. Real Madrid
A little over a month ago I wrote that Shinji Kagawa could still be the Red Devils' X-factor this season.
With his best performance in a United shirt to date, he was a luminary figure at Old Trafford, combining with the also excellent Wayne Rooney to great effect.
His movement between the lines caused the Norwich defence havoc for much of the game—his hat-trick a deserved reward for his afternoon's work.
Call it a selection dilemma, but the Japanese playmaker has surely played his way into Sir Alex Ferguson's starting lineup vs. Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck may be two of the unfortunate players who have to watch the game from the sidelines.
United Must Avoid Complacency
Not to cast gloom on a wholly satisfying day, but there was a brief period of Saturday's game where the Red Devils backed off their opponents, giving them room to play where they hadn't before.
This 15-minute spell came immediately after half time with the score at 1-0 to United.
The introduction of Tom Cleverley to the game helped steady the ship, but had the Canaries found a way past David de Gea, reports of the game could have read very differently.
As it is, it's another well-earned clean sheet for Sir Alex's side.
But you can bet that should they do the same against Real on Tuesday, they will get punished.
Antonio Valencia Much Improved
Antonio Valencia has come in for a lot of flack for his recent performances for United, and deservedly so.
He has looked uninspired, lacking a quality final ball as he has struggled to beat his opposite number one on one.
Nothing could have been further from the truth against Norwich, as the Ecuadorian winger put in possibly his best display of the current campaign to date.
He was lively, his passing was neat and rarely off target, but in a general sense he seemed to have recovered that joie de vivre he'd previously been missing.
Valencia even helped set up his side's first with a left-footed cross—a very rare occurrence as United fans are well aware.
Red Devils Lucky to Escape Physically Unscathed
In a game where keeping their best players fit and healthy was of the utmost importance, Manchester United were certainly on the end of some crunching tackles.
Norwich failed to toe the line between good, old fashioned tackles and nasty fouls Saturday, crossing it on more than one occasion.
Robert Snodgrass, Bradley Johnson and Michael Turner were the biggest culprits, scything down Patrice Evra, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck respectively.
Sir Alex will not have been pleased with Chris Hughton's side's physicality, which was unnecessarily robust throughout the game.
Luckily for the Red Devils though, everyone in a red shirt was still standing by the final whistle.
Has Robin Van Persie Lost His Edge?
In my mind at least, Robin van Persie remains the number one candidate for the Premier League's player of the season award.
But more recently, he seems to have lost a slight edge in front of goal.
The Dutchman has only scored once in all competitions since his side's mid-January clash with Tottenham Hotspur, and has failed to find the back of the net in his last three appearances.
Saying this, van Persie could very well go on to be United's match-winner when he faces Real next week, and no one would be surprised.
For now though, his form seems to have dipped a little as his toil against Norwich typified his rather underwhelming past few weeks.
Ryan Giggs in Line to Play vs. Real Madrid
Usually for a footballer, being left out of the matchday squad is a bad thing, but for Ryan Giggs, time spent in the stands on Saturday was surely welcome.
His exclusion from the team strongly hinted that Sir Alex is planning to start the Welshman against Real.
Giggs has been in stellar form this year, displaying the kind of energy and enthusiasm that defies his rapidly accelerating age.
With United's attacking midfield three midweek likely to be Kagawa, Rooney and either Valencia or Nani, this means Giggs could very well line up alongside Michael Carrick in central midfield.
This would be unfortunate for both Tom Cleverley and Anderson, but who's to argue with Sir Alex?
What else did you learn from the 4-0 win? Who impressed you the most?