Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late penalty as a lacklustre Manchester United scraped to 1-0 win over a spirited Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday.
There had been a lot of optimism following Ralf Rangnick’s first game in charge last weekend, although Manchester United looked far less convincing this time around, in what was a largely sloppy first-half from the visitors.
The beleaguered hosts – who were without a number of key players through illness and injury – had started brightly, although as their place in the bottom three would suggest, they lacked the quality in the final third to make the Red Devils pay.
Even while far from being at their best, the away side still looked most likely to score, Alex Telles seeing his deflected free-kick strike the crossbar, while Harry Maguire’s looping header almost caught out Tim Krul.
The best chance of the half fell the way of Cristiano Ronaldo, however, although the typically lethal forward failed to convert after an excellent threaded pass from Scott McTominay, the 36-year-old eventually seeing his left-footed effort saved after an initial poor first touch.
It was more of the same after the interval as United again began sluggishly, with the Canaries twice going close through Przyemyslaw Placheta and then Teemu Pukki, the Finland international drawing a fine save from David De Gea to tip it over the bar.
David de Gea has now made 5+ saves in six Premier League games this season:
◎ 7 vs Leicester
◎ 5 vs Arsenal
◎ 5 vs Chelsea
◎ 5 vs Man City
◎ 5 vs Wolves
◉ 5 vs Norwich
Earning his clean sheet. 🧤 pic.twitter.com/Ik8MxeJwe3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 11, 2021
Despite the lack of improvement from United in the second-half, the breakthrough eventually came with just over 15 minutes to play through talisman Ronaldo, the former Juventus man firing in from the penalty spot after having been brought down by Max Aarons inside the area.
Dean Smith’s side then almost hit back instantly, yet Ozan Kabak saw his header saved by a miraculous De Gea save, while Billy Gilmour then had an effort deflect wide off substitute Eric Bailly.
After another late De Gea intervention, United hung on for a second successive league win under their new boss, though the German wasn’t happy with the level of his side’s performance at times in the game.
“It was a very intense game, very physical. They played well, they didn’t play like a bottom team. We had some problems in the first 15 minutes,” he told Match of the Day.
“From the start, we controlled the game but didn’t always have the best possible solutions. Defensively we did well, tactically in the first half we didn’t allow them to have too many shots or chances.
“At half-time I told the boys we needed to increase the speed and intensity of the game. The second half was a little bit better but at the end we were lucky to have a clean sheet and there were two or three clean sheets by David de Gea.
“It’s another clean sheet but still a lot of work to do.
4 & 7 – No player has scored more winning goals in the Premier League this season than Cristiano Ronaldo (4, level with Bernardo Silva), while only Jamie Vardy's goals (8 points) have been worth more points for his side than Ronaldo's (7 points). Reliant. pic.twitter.com/bvLkbs8Zrq
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 11, 2021
“The second half I was not at all happy with the amount of corners that we gave away, but we got the three points.
“We have conceded the highest amount of goals in the top ten. Now we have two clean sheets which is good but we still need to improve on that away, especially against physical teams or teams that attack high like Norwich did.
“It’s also a question of body language and physicality and this was one of the major issues that we could have done better.”
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