Nev: United’s lethargic performance a ‘mystery’

Nev: United’s lethargic performance a ‘mystery’

Gary Neville has called Manchester United’s performance at Norwich “a mystery” as interim manager Ralf Rangnick targets more intensity in similar games.

After an impressive first half against Crystal Palace last weekend during Rangnick’s first game in charge, Neville was expecting something similar against the Premier League’s bottom side.

But it was a lethargic performance from the visitors at Carrow Road, with a number of United’s star players failing to shine. However, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who grabbed the headlines again when he won and converted a penalty in the second half, securing Rangnick his second successive league win.

United also had goalkeeper David de Gea to thank for claiming another clean sheet as he made a string of superb saves to keep Dean Smith’s spirited side at bay.

Reflecting on the game, Sky Sports’ Gary Neville said: “It wasn’t a good performance. Against any other team in the league that would have caused them real problems. They go to Brentford on Tuesday night and they have to do better than that otherwise they will get beaten. I do think they will.

“We were told before the first game and all week that United will be high energy and high press. That did not exist today. It was a really strange one to understand what happened out there on the ball and off it.

“Those players will have had a free week to prepare so I was expecting a ferociously frantic start to the game. Really high pressing, loads of quick play and it was lethargic from minute one.

“On the ball they were so sloppy it’s untrue. They gave it away so many times it was unbelievable.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win against Norwich in the Premier League

“Last week against Crystal Palace, I think that had one moment in the game and it was a really confident defensive performance. There was a good structure to them, they prevented chances, they sustained attacks, they stopped the counter-attack.

“Today, I thought any other teams in the league that had anything more about them in terms of quality would have cut through Manchester United. There were spaces there in wide areas and then even in the second half, they were getting through the middle of them. Norwich just didn’t have the ruthlessness to be able to finish Manchester United off.

“I think it was a clean sheet by the fact the goalkeeper has made a few saves and the team they were playing against are the worst in the league in an attacking sense.

David de Gea produced a man of the match performance as Man Utd beat Norwich
Image: David de Gea produced a man of the match performance as Man Utd beat Norwich

“I see a manager who is just trying to embed his principles. If you had said to him before that last game against Crystal Palace, you’ll have two Premier League wins and clean sheets and you’ll get an opportunity to see all your players in Europe in midweek, he’d snap your hand off.

“One of the things Ralf Rangnick had to try and fix first was the defensive problems and make them tougher to play against. I don’t think they were tough to play against today.

“The big mystery for me was why Manchester United were so lacking in energy. I thought they would be a lot better than that, particularly with the fact those players out on the pitch have had a free week to prepare for this match.

“So it’s a little bit of a mystery in terms of today’s game. We’ll know a little bit more after Tuesday’s game, as will Ralf Rangnick. He’s still finding out about his players.

Man Utd's upcoming fixtures

“I do think there will be a problem with this system when they play teams with good full-backs who have got more quality because Dalot and Telles will get exposed. Fernandes and Sancho won’t be able to get out in time by the time a Cancelo, Robertson or Alexander-Arnold has run down that wing.

“But they’ve got a few months before they face those players and by then, I think he will have changed things around a little bit, he will have got to know the players.

“But I think it’s a good start in that they’ve won both games. They need to win games and build confidence in the new coach. He will see it as a good week but United will have to improve a lot to get anything in the next games.”

Rangnick wants more intensity

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick questioned the physicality and body language of his strikers in the 1-0 win over Norwich in the Premier League

Man Utd interim manager Rangnick was honest about his side’s weaknesses at Carrow Road, and has targeted more intensity when faced with similar games.

He told Sky Sports: “It was a very physical, intense game, I already told Dean they played extremely well, not at all like a bottom team. They played like we played against Crystal Palace.

“In the first 15 minutes we struggled tactically, but then it was better. In the second half we had a better body language up front, but still allowed them too many shots and corners, so in the end it was De Gea who made sure it was a clean sheet in the end.

“It’s about intensity, body language, physicality. This was always the case. If you want to keep control of a game like this you need to be physically present, and this wasn’t the case in all positions.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick says Victor Lindelof had ‘breathing problems’ after he was substituted during the win at Norwich but the defender is ‘okay’.

“Some of our players are technical players, and today there was not much space for technical solutions, and then you need to be physically brave, and compete on that kind of level. We need to raise our level of intensity in games like this.

“It’s not only a question of individual players, it’s how we play as a team, but it’s also a question of who wins balls and second balls.

“We need to improve, we need to get better, that’s for sure. Tuesday against Brentford is a difficult game, it will be a challenge for us.”

The interim manager also gave an update on Victor Lindelof, who was substituted in the second half with a mysterious illness, explaining: “He had a collision, he can’t even remember what it was, but he was struggling to breathe. He said he felt pain on his chest, but they’ve checked him, and they’ve done all the tests and everything seems to be OK.”

Redknapp: United must lose terrible habits

Jadon Sancho, Norwich vs Man Utd
Image: Manchester United have picked up bad habits and they must be addressed, says Jamie Redknapp

Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp was also critical of United, despite the victory, and believes there are key areas that they must improve on as they head into a busy period of games.

He said: “They’ve got bad habits that have crept into their game over such a long period. The manager is going to have a tough job to change that. It’s not impossible, but he’s going to have to use a lot of personnel, chop and change players to see who wants to do it and can do it.

“There are examples of nobody pressing, nobody running, nobody going out of position, nobody pointing the finger at someone who is not doing their job.

“That’s something that has to change because when I see the other sides like Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea, they’ve got players who are doing it and leading by example.

“Manchester United have got to get out of these terrible habits they’ve got themselves into and making the game too easy to play against.

“We talk about the pressing game that a lot of modern managers want. There are a lot of players who are not doing that in that system. Especially when you’re playing with two up front, you are leaving yourself isolated. The two wide men – Sancho and Fernandes – have to run and chase when they haven’t got it.

“I didn’t think they had enough energy to do that today but it was three points and they’ve got some really good games ahead of them.

“From that perspective Rangnick will be pleased with the points, but I don’t think he can be pleased with the performance.”

Smith: It was a soft penalty

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Norwich manager Dean Smith claimed that he was disappointed by the standard of refereeing in their 1-0 defeat to Manchester United and suggested the United players were too influential in decisions

Manchester United’s penalty was awarded after Max Aarons was judged to have fouled Ronaldo in the area – a decision which caused uproar from Norwich both on and off the field.

Canaries head coach Dean Smith was vocal in his disappointment with the decision, as well as others made during the game.

He told Sky Sports: “I’ve seen the penalty back and does he make contact with him in the box? Yes. Does he have his arm up? Yes. But I can show you five or six different challenges in the game, whether they’re inside or outside the box, that weren’t given. We’re after consistency and there’s no consistency there.

“I just felt like it was too easy for Manchester United to referee the game today – Marcus Rashford gave himself a free kick in the first half.

“For me, there was a build-up during the game. You can’t have players refereeing the game and it felt like it was. I’m going to sound like a sore loser and maybe I am, but I don’t think our performance deserved to lose the game today. There were some questionable decisions.

“It’s a soft penalty, but there were soft moments throughout the game when he didn’t give them so it has to be consistent.

“We had some really good moments in the game today. I thought performance levels were really good. There were times in the first half when we had to defend, but I thought we took the game to them in the second half and created some really good chances.

“But we know we have to get better in those big moments because they are the ones that will get us out of danger.”

Sports