Six things we learned as Manchester United beat Norwich 1-0

Manchester United have beaten Norwich 1-0 at Carrow Road to chalk up a third straight Premier League win.

Here is a look at six things we learned from Ralf Rangnick’s first away game in interim charge…

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United unchanged

Rangnick seems to have a clear idea of his best United line-up right now.

He went back to the side which beat Crystal Palace 1-0 and which had the whole week to prepare after getting the night off against Young Boys.

That meant another outing for the 4-2-2-2 system as Rangnick continues trying to get his ideas across.

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Space down the flanks

It seems obvious but the spaces for opponents to exploit in that narrow 4-2-2-2 formation are out wide.

Norwich had joy down both flanks when they were able to beat United’s press, which was lacklustre in the first half.

Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot lacked the necessary cover at times and the Canaries were able to pull crosses across the box which could have been exploited on another day.

That said, this was a second straight league clean sheet for Rangnick and that is something to build on, even if it was not the most assured defensive performance at times.

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Slow starts are back

United were flying in the first half an hour against Palace but they started slowly here.

It was a return to the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era in terms of that ponderous beginning to games and it allowed Norwich to get a foothold.

This was a reminder that it will take time for Rangnick’s demands and methods to take root.

United are still the only Premier League side who still have not scored in the opening 15 minutes of a game this season.

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Slack in attack

United’s attack was especially sluggish and the live coverage at half-time highlighted how often some of the forwards had lost the ball.

Perhaps a lot of work had been done on pressing and not so much on build-up play but there was no cohesion in the opening 45 minutes and it did not get much better after the interval despite the introduction of Mason Greenwood.

David de Gea had to do some good work to preserve United’s clean sheet in the second half, with two impressive saves plunging to his right and then down to his left in stoppage time, and earned Man of the Match from Gary Neville.

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Lindelof fitness concern

Victor Lindelof went down around the 70 minute mark and after a period of consultation with the medical staff, he was replaced by Eric Bailly.

It is not clear what caused the problem but United and Lindelof were wise not to take any risks.

Lindelof battled a back problem last season. This did not look connected but time will tell what the prognosis is.

With Raphael Varane still out, Phil Jones, who was on the bench here, edges closer to contention. Nemanja Matic played at the heart of defence in midweek but was ruled out with illness here.

Ronaldo steps up again

United have won nine Premier League games this season and Ronaldo has scored in eight of them.

Chances were hard to come by in a stodgy performance when Ronaldo was dragged down in the box by Max Aarons.

Ronaldo took responsibility himself – just as he did in Michael Carrick’s final game against Arsenal – against a goalkeeper in Tim Krul who has a good penalty saving record.

Rangnick has focused on trying to tighten up United’s defence, reasoning that the attack can come up trumps and there is nobody better than Ronaldo at doing exactly that, although he did miss a great late chance to make it 2-0.

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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.