Manchester United vs. Norwich City: 6 Things We Learned

Greg Johnson@gregianjohnsonSpecial to Bleacher ReportOctober 29, 2013

Manchester United put four past an injury-ravaged Norwich City, who saw Robert Snodgrass carried off on a stretcher and Nathan Redmond forced to remove himself from the game.

Even before the Canaries lost their wingers, however, David Moyes' team looked in full control of the fixture, with a largely second-string side featuring Wilfried Zaha, Alexander Buttner, Anders Lindegaard and Javier Hernandez running out as clear and decisive winners at Old Trafford.

Having rested Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, the United manager can take heart in his squad's depth in quality and the reliability of his reserve players.

The ability of his back-ups to come in when needed and make the most of their opportunities bodes well for the run-in, which the club will likely needed to achieve their top four ambitions this year.

With all this in mind, here are six things we learned from United's 4-0 Capital One Cup win over Norwich:



1. Delaying Zaha's debut looks even more questionable

Leaving the field to be replaced by Wayne Rooney on 77 minutes, Old Trafford applauded the former Crystal Palace winger off the park, and many fans may be wondering why it took so long to give the Englishman his debut.

He may not have made or scored any goals against Norwich, and he did look a bit rough around the edges at times, but his determination to try and get at the visiting defenders on his own, or by linking up with Adnan Januzaj and Co., was clear to see.

Perhaps if the winger had been blooded for United sooner, the scrappier parts of his game may have already begun to be rounded off. Hopefully Moyes will respond to Zaha's adventurous display by offering him more appearances in the near future.

A temporary loan move may not be enough for Zaha who will be keen to make the most out of his first season as a United player.

Having benefited greatly from the emergence of Januzaj, the new manager may feel able to take another chance on youth and trust Zaha if only to inject his beleaguered team without a bit of exciting, attacking potential.

With Fabio scoring a well-taken goal in extra time to make it 4-0, placing even more faith in United's prospects looks like it could be a gamble worth taking for Moyes.



2. Hughton must take a leaf out of Pochettino's book on pressing

Too much is made of formations when it comes to analysing a team's performance, with Norwich's use of 4-5-1 regularly cited as a cause for their stodgy football rather than a victim of their cautious style of play in itself.

It's how a formation is played that matters rather than how the numbers look when laid out on paper, and Hughton's side must be more proactive off the ball if they are to make a success of their five-man midfield system.

With a close-knit squad of hard-working players at his disposal, the former Newcastle manager would do well to look at the success being enjoyed by Southampton, West Brom and Everton for ideas on how to make the most his own team's industrious qualities.

The likes of Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Leroy Fer are all well-rounded and physically able footballers capable of involving themselves in every phase of play, across the park.

Yet, at times, they seemed to stand off after having lost the ball, giving United time and space to work through them and find their composure.

Introducing a greater emphasis on pressing and aggressive movement into Norwich's style of play could be the key to turning Norwich from relegation battlers into assertive, mid-table regulars this year.



3. Janzuaj can be diligently discreet as well as spectacular

Whether he was dribbling down the flank or directing play in a more central role, Januzaj's ability to take care of his more mundane duties was as impressive as his flashes of quality. His tidy use of the ball in the final third ensured that United maintained possession and control of the game.

In a couple of his earlier displays this season, the youngster's enthusiasm spilled over into a clumsy counter for the opposition, as Januzaj lost the ball after trying to be too cute and clever on the dribble.

Against Norwich, however, the attacking midfielder put in the sort of measured, sensible performance most fans would expect of a veteran.

That didn't take away from his effectiveness either and he won the penalty that led to United's opener. The BBC's Conor McNamara was suitably impressed, tweeting:

Like the look of Januzaj in this more central role. Fresh-faced, running in the rain; Put a plastic bag on him & he's a 'Trick or Treater'.

— Conor McNamara (@ConorMcNamaraIE) October 29, 2013

No youthful naivety here but instead a thoroughly professional outing from a prospect who recently secured his future at Old Trafford by signing a new five-year contract.

The stoppage-time ovation offered to the player from the stands as he was subbed for Fabio said it all.



4. Life under Moyes may be regaining some stability with United's third straight win

Following on from wins over Real Sociedad and Stoke City, Moyes has now recorded three wins in a row for the first time as United manager. His team's 4-0 win over Norwich also means that they are now undefeated in six games.

Detractors may be able to point to the league table when making a case against the manager, but with Moyes having so far breezed through the club's Champions League and League Cup fixtures, it may just be a matter of time until his methods translate into a surge back into the top four.

Attention now turns to a potentially slippery away tie at the weekend at Fulham's Craven Cottage with Martin Jol's men capable of being galvanised into action or falling apart to further their own misery.

United must take the confidence and focus of their performance against Norwich with them to London so that Moyes can begin to stack up the wins and drive his team's climb up the table.



5. Hernandez is outgrowing his super-sub status at Old Trafford

Everyone knows that Hernandez scores goals, but after three years in Manchester, the Mexican now looks to be well on his way to becoming far more than a poacher.

His ability to hold up the ball, link up play and bring others into the game has greatly improved, with his ability to find the back of the net making him not only a far more suitable candidate to be van Persie's understudy than Welbeck but also a worthy starter for a top six club at least.

It will always be difficult for United to offer Hernandez the game time his talent and attitude deserves, with his ever-expanding set of skills no match for the club's first-choice, footballing polymath strikers.

Unless Rooney does leave in the near future offering Chicharito a chance to partner van Persie, the poacher may grow restless, especially with the highly-rated Angelo Henriquez and Will Keane also breathing down his neck for opportunities.



6. Fabio celebrated his goal as if saying goodbye

Is this the end for Fabio da Silva? Rafael's brother may have scored a goal from a wonderful long-range pass from Rooney almost immediately after taking to the field, but the Brazilian's reaction suggested at closure rather than contentment over his current status in the squad.

Currently stuck behind the Buttner as Evra's main stand-in, and denied opportunities in his other positions on the left wing and right-back by the selection of other players, it looks unlikely that Fabio will be given the run of games that saw his brother turn into arguably the best wing-back in the Premier League.

United's victory over Norwich was in many ways a celebration of youth with Zaha, Januzaj and Jones all playing major roles, but Moyes must not gloss over the unhappiness shown by Fabio in his celebrations.

Touted as a better prospect than Rafael when the two arrived back in 2008 from Fluminense, Fabio has now fallen behind in his own development.

Should he be given the opportunity to fulfil his potential however, talk of United needing a new left-back to replace Evra could soon dissipate if that gap in development can be bridged.


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