Five things we learned from Manchester United v Norwich

Manchester United hosted Norwich at Old Trafford on an afternoon where the anti-Glazer protest were the big story.

But focusing on matters on the pitch, here are five things we learned from the game…

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Lingard gets a shock start

Ralf Rangnick had a selection dilemma with Fred and Scott McTominay ruled out of this one with injury ahead of time.

His reaction was to bring Jesse Lingard into the side ahead of Nemanja Matic, and pack his engine room with energy and creativity.

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Lingard’s contract situation means that it previously plausible that he had already made his final start for the club but he got a chance here.

Perhaps that shocked Dean Smith, as United went into this game without a recognised ball-winning midfielder.

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Attacking midfield has its pros and cons

Rangnick’s midfield selection was aggressive, with no recognised holding player and that helped and hindered United at various times in the match.

Having three players all strong on the ball and capable of playing cutting passes in the middle of the pitch was useful, especially at home to the worst team in the league.

But there were times when the ball broke down and United had absolutely nobody protecting the defence, which left them more vulnerable to the counter attack than they needed to be.

It would be a surprise if United’s midfield setup was this open and aggressive at Anfield on Tuesday night.

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Ronaldo back to his best

Cristiano Ronaldo had not been getting much service in recent games but he showed here that when he gets clear chances, he tends to take them.

It was a ruthless finish from Anthony Elanga’s centre to open the scoring, after the Swede had pressed Ben Gibson expertly and forced a mistake.

Then, a towering header as United boosted their sub-par tally of goals from corners this season and put Ronaldo on the verge of a 50th career club hat trick – and he has ten more at international level.

With United in need of some inspiration, Ronaldo completed it with a stunning free kick which sent Old Trafford wild.

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United let Norwich back in

At 2-0, in the sun, at home to the bottom club in the Premier League, this looked like it could be a rare simple afternoon for United on the pitch.

But Norwich pegged United back right on the stroke of half-time, which is always an awful time to concede a goal and it put the game back in the balance.

That has been a theme this season for United, even in games where they play well and win, they still had their opponents a chance.

Within ten minutes of the second half, it was 2-2, as United left Teemu Pukki with too much space to convert.

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Rangnick’s changes help United recover

Having pretty much gone hell for leather to win the game with his initial team selection, Rangnick’s first alteration to his side was actually a more conservative step.

He brought on Matic for Lingard and that meant that United were not quite so open to the break.

But then he really went for it, bringing on Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford, moving Anthony Elanga to right back.

That was unconventional but had an instant impact as Elanga won the free kick which Ronaldo converted to win the game and leap above Arsenal in the table, ahead of the clash at the Emirates Stadium next Saturday.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.