Manchester United kept up the pressure on Manchester City in the race for Champions League qualification with a 1-0 victory over Norwich City on Saturday.Juan Mata’s side-footed finish moved United to within one point of City with the Blues hosting Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Louis van Gaal will be pleased with another three points, but the glaring problems remain with this side as they scrap for a place in the Champions League next season.
Here are five things we learned from United’s victory:
1. Wayne Rooney isn’t a no.9 anymore
It was an experiment which didn’t work earlier in the season as United were saved by the emergence of Marcus Rashford, but with an injury to Anthony Martial in the warm-up, Rooney was positioned as a lone striker.
The Red Devils captain provided the assist for the decisive goal, but he struggled for much of the game. As has been the case for much of the season, the service to him wasn’t particularly helpful, but Rooney’s lack of energy and mobility made United’s play as ponderous as it has been for a number of weeks.
2. Anthony Martial may miss the FA Cup final
Martial’s injury in the warm-up at Norwich was described as a hamstring issue which suggests a minimum two week lay-off. This is not the first time this has happened this season as Martial pulled up just minutes before the home tie with FC Midtjylland.
With the lay-off expected to be at least a fortnight, United face the very real prospect of being without their best outfield player for the trip to Wembley on 21 May, exactly two weeks from today.
3. Memphis Depay needs a boost of confidence
Whether or not this comes at Old Trafford is up to those in charge of the club to decide, but Memphis looked a lost soul out on the left wing at Carrow Road.
The Dutchman barely saw the ball and when he did he simply couldn’t get past the Norwich defence even in some favourable one-on-one situations. Memphis has previously shown such ability at PSV and in the early days of his United career, but this crisis of confidence is alarming.
4. Marcos Rojo struggles at centre-half
The Argentine splits opinion amongst the United fan-base with his style of defending very much down to an individual’s preference. At left-back, Rojo’s energy and tough tackling style can work well, but when moved into the middle of defence he struggles.
Rojo is often vulnerable to any aerial threat, with the former Sporting Lisbon defender unable to impose himself in headed duels, leaving Chris Smalling with more to do. Norwich were poor in front of goal but on another day with Rojo at centre-half, the hosts could have easily scored twice.
5. Louis van Gaal still can’t shake his risk-averse football
Van Gaal is essentially auditioning to keep his job in the final games of this season – not that you’d know it with how he set his team up to play at Norwich.
Of course injuries to Martial and Matteo Darmian unsettled United early on but the Reds were too slow, too ponderous and in the cold hard light of day only scored after a huge individual error from Sebastien Bassong.
Van Gaal continues to be too risk-averse and there is a sense that United fans, despite a history of showing patience to managers, have simply had enough and are ready for change this summer.