Manchester United somehow escaped Carrow Road with three points after a fortunate 1-0 win over Norwich City.
A game that honestly should’ve ended as a draw; both teams were as good as each other, which is quite a depressing sentence thinking Norwich currently sit bottom in the Premier League.
The penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo scored was a very soft claim to put it nicely. However, United were able to hold on after making relatively few chances to leave with three points and push them higher up the league table.
The brunt of criticism for United in the game lay on the shoulders of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese midfielder has easily been United’s best player since his arrival in January 2020. However, his form under Ralf Rangnick has left a lot to be desired.
Fernandes had a game to forget. Per sofascore, he only completed 67% of his passes, gave away possession a staggering 27 times, didn’t complete a single cross out of the five attempted, with only two of his seven long balls also being completed.
Now Fernandes isn’t known for his high-efficient passing and ball retention anyway, but this game took the cake for Bruno effectively striking out with a lot of his attempts.
The 4-2-2-2 formation of Ralf Rangnick’s hasn’t seemed to work currently for Fernandes, who appears to be acclimating very slow to the new system. However, one of United’s biggest problems is that when Fernandes isn’t firing, as he was against Norwich, United don’t have a plan B.
With the injury of Paul Pogba, not to mention the Frenchman arguably on the verge of leaving the club, United don’t have many options. The full-backs of United that have become a focal point of creativity in modern football is waning at the club, with the right-flank being utterly devoid of form.
Unlike the teams Rangnick has managed prior, which United desperately needs, the team does not have a forward who can do the so-called “dirty work”.
In the same way Rangnick did well with the likes of Yussef Poulsen at RB Leipzig and famously with Roberto Firmino at Hoffenheim, he had forwards who would sacrifice themselves for the better of the team, creating chances for their partnering forwards.
United’s best passer or playmaker would’ve arguably been Fred against Norwich if Bruno Fernandes came off the pitch. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a big fan of Fred, but the Brazilian should not be tasked as a primary playmaker for a team with title aspirations.
United sorely need a forward who can take that load off Fernandes. A striker who can drop deeper and link play with them. All the best teams in the world have them, such as Firmino mentioned above at Liverpool, Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich, and the conglomerate of false nine’s Manchester City use.
Yes, Fernandes is struggling in this system. Still, when the following options for creativity are either Fred or Jadon Sancho weaving through multiple players, it makes much more sense that Bruno is still being played through this slump.
United has shown more grit in these games since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and the defensive record under Rangnick is already much better. However, the new system may not be suitable for the current attacking impetus of Manchester United.
Hopefully, this can hopefully either be rectified by the return of Edinson Cavani or in the upcoming January transfer window. If not, this season might be a very long struggle for Rangnick and Manchester United.