United lined up with nine changes from the 3-2 victory against Stoke on Saturday, including starts for the talented Wilfried Zaha and Golden Boy nominated Adnan Januzaj. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic also started at the heart of the United defence, with the latter captaining the side.
United dominated posession in the opening stages of the game and the goal came from Hernandez via the penalty spot. Chicharito sent the keeper the wrong way camly slotting the ball to the keeper right. That’s 11 goals in 16 starts for the Mexican. The penalty was won by Januzaj after he was fouled by Leroy Fer. Perhaps it was a bit of a soft penalty in my opinion but that will do nicely. United on track for their 3rd win in a row in all competitions.
United seemed very comfortable, probably too comfortable at 1-0 and needed half-time to inject a bit of tempo into the game and kill Norwich off. The man of the half Adnan Januzaj almost put United in complete control of the match with a mazy run past three Norwich defenders in the area. His shot was blocked but he collected the rebound only for his second attempt to suffer the same fate as the first. He really has ran the show in the first half, would like to see him saved for Fulham if we can get an early 2nd.
The second half began with Norwich’s first decent attemot on goal in the game. The chance came from a set-piece, a free-kick that was wrongly awarded when Zaha won the ball fairly. Leroy Fer rose to meet the cross but could only head wide. Norwich started the half brightly and were a whisker away from equalising when Elmander got in front of Vidic and almost found the far corner. United responded by getting into a good crossing posotion with support in the area but Ashley Young over hit the cross.
It didn’t take long for United to find a second goal and it came from that man again Javier Hernandez in the 53rd minute. Buttner had acres of space out on the wing and curled a perfect cross in for Hernandez, his header was well saved by Mark Bunn but Hernandez reacted quickly to pounce on the rebound and head into the net from close range. The United faithful were in great voice now singing Georgie Best and Christmas Cantona songs.
Norwich, as many teams do, decided to have a go now they had nothing to lose and nearly got a goal back after some scintillating skill on the wing by Redmond, he crossed for Snodgrass who directed his header well but it wasn’t far enough from Anders Lindegaard’s long arms. Snodgrass took a clattering for his troubles and was stretchered off after a lengthy stoppage, looked like a bad injury from what was an innocuous challenge. Hope hes OK. He was replaced by Anthony Pilkington.
After the restart United looked good for another goal, dangerous ventures forward with Januzaj, Zaha and Young pulling the strings. Januzaj showed great strength to turn in the centre of the park and drive towards the Norwich goal, he attempted another placed shot, this time in the bottom corner and again a whisker away from finding the intended target. We were in complete control of the game and were dictating the tempo. Norwich lost another player to a bizzare injury. This time Nathan Redmond seemed to pull an abdominal muscle when running with the ball.
United were cruising and in my opinion needed to make some changes so as to keep legs fresh for the weekend trip to Fulham. Moyes seemed intent to keep the team out and give 90 minutes to the likes of Buttner, Ferdinand and Cleverley who needed games. Wayne Rooney was introduced on the 78th minute for Wilfried Zaha. I thought he had a decent game and probably deserved to play the whole 90 considering Ashley Young’s woeful crossing display. Maybe he will make the squad at the weekend?
Rooney didn’t take long to get involved and nearly supplied the assist for Hernandez hat-trick. Playing the ball into the Mexican who managed to make a yard of space and attempted a shot from outside the box. I think that’s the first time i have ever seen him shoot from outside the area. Like Van Nistelrooy i doubt he has scored many, if any from outside the area. Januzaj showcased another of his many talents tonight; long range passing reminiscent of the great Paul Scholes. He found Young out on the wing with such a pass to the delight of the Old Trafford crowd. Young played a good ball inside to Buttner but his shot was blocked.
Januzaj continued to terrorise Norwich with brilliant close control and skill now over on the right wing since Rooney’s introduction. He was involved in the buildup fpr the goal that secured United place in the quarter-finals. His cross was met by Hernandez and an unlikely source, Phil Jones displayed great technique to volley an attempted Norwich clearance into the back of the next from just inside the area. Great finish by the centre back come centre midfield player. A trim looking Anderson came on for Cleverley in the 89th minute to see the game out.
It was a joy to finally watch a United game where we played well and didn’t concede a goal, i think our two best performances this season have come in this competition. We should definitely be utilising our squad and players like Hernandez and Januzaj are knocking on the door for a place in the starting XI. Januzaj was replaced in the 11 minutes of stoppage time to a standing ovation for Fabio. Good to see him back. Very good in fact. He scored with probably his first touch of the game. Rooney played a beautiful through ball through the air to the Brazillian who took one touch on the run and managed to poke the ball past the on rushing Mark Bunn. He looked stunned!
Hernandez wasted a golden chance for his hat-trick when he headed wide from yards out unchallenged. He really should be gobbling them up, especially when decent crosses from Young are as rare as a modest Jose Mourinho quote.
Man of the Match: Adnan Januzaj