A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty was enough to give Ralf Rangnick a second win in two league games as Manchester United manager, along with a second consecutive clean sheet. They move back above Arsenal to fifth, while Norwich remain bottom.
The first half was a miserable affair, two poor teams playing poorly in a poor game. Norwich had most of the play in the first 20 minutes without creating much, and though an Alex Telles free-kick was deflected onto the bar by Josh Sargent, United didn’t look like scoring either, even when they took control of proceedings around the 20-minute mark.
Little improved after the break. Norwich had a little flurry of corners without really threatening, and then on 73 minutes, Max Aarons saw Ronaldo on his wrong side and panicked, grabbing him. Naturally, Ronaldo shrieked, went down, then got up to bury the penalty, and though Norwich hurled everything at an equaliser, United held out for the win thanks to sterling work from David De Gea.
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TALKING POINT - Where is the width?

To expect Ralf Rangnick to come in and immediately solve Manchester United’s woes is fanciful. His 4-2-2-2 formation has more or less dealt with the team’s most glaring problem, the concession of space in the middle of the pitch, but against teams to defend deep and narrow, it doesn’t have the required dynamism in wide areas.

At the start of today’s game, Bruno Fernandes played from the right and Jadon Sancho from the left, which made no sense - both players wanted to come inside, and Bruno was doing so on his weaker foot. Things improved a little when they swapped, but Sancho, though he looked United’s likeliest spark, barely linked with Diogo Dalot never mind worked an overload, overlap or underlap.

One of the problems Ole Gunnar Solskjaer created for himself was constantly tweaking formations, and Rangnick’s commitment to a method makes sense – the best teams play the same way in almost every game. But he must find a way to better utilise the width of the pitch, so that once his team have taken control of the centre, they can stretch the opposition and get around the sides.

Manchester United's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates

Image credit: Getty Images

MAN OF THE MATCH - David De Gea (Man Utd)

Was there every time his team needed him, two terrific saves after they scored protecting the three points - and he even caught a couple of corners.

PLAYER RATINGS

Norwich: Krul 6, Aarons 5, Kabak 7, Hanley 6, Giannoulis 7, Rupp 6, Gilmour 6, McLean 6, Placheta 6, Pukki 5, Sargent 6. Subs: Sorensen 6, Melou 6, Cantwell 6.
Man Utd: De Gea 8, Dalot 6, Maguire 6, Lindelof 6, Telles 6, Fred 6, McTominay 7, Sancho 6, Fernandes 5, Ronaldo 5, Rashford 6. Subs: Greenwood 6, Bailly 6, Van de Beek 5.

KEY MOMENTS

73’ - PENALTY UNITED! McTominay clips into the box, Ronaldo goes down when Aarons panics, seeing him on the wrong side and administering a blind-side yank ... and that's a penalty, Soft, but nevertheless.
75’ - GOAL! Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United (Ronaldo pen): Ronaldo clatters it into the left side-netting, a foot or so up, as Krul dives the other way.
77’ - WHAT A SAVE DE GEA! Sargent's free-kick is a decent one and Kabak is up, Maguire beaten in the air for the first time today. The connection is perfect too, but De Gea hurls himself right to fist away! He's saved United so many times this season!
82’ - NORWICH GOING FOR IT! Norwich are pushing hard now, Sargent crossing from the right and Gilmour rattling a shot that Dalot blocks, then smashing the rebound that Bailly blocks! United are putting it on the line here, and Norwich are giving them everything.
86’ - WHAT A MISS! Telles does really well to plough through Aarons and he sets Rashford away. Rashford's been better in the second half - he could barely have been worse - and he skips around Sorensen, works the ball onto his right foot, and passes across the face of goal for Ronaldo. It's a little behind him, but he should still do better than ballooon over a gaping net. Will United live to regret his profligacy?
90+2’ - ANOTHER BIG SAVE! Gilmour's free-kick is a fine one too! I think Ronaldo flicks it on and I also think Kabak is offside at the back post, but De Gea wasn't to know, and he smuggles the ball off the line! That's another vital save, and he's immediately named man of the match by Gary Neville, which makes sense.

KEY STAT

  • Ralf Rangnick is the second Manchester United manager to have his new team keep clean sheets in his first two league games in charge - after Ernest Mangnall in 1903.
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