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Norwich City game highlighted Manchester United’s lack of squad depth

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The 2-1 win against Premier League strugglers Norwich City in the FA Cup on Sunday went on to stretch Manchester United’s unbeaten run in all competitions to 14.

January signing Bruno Fernandes has been an integral part of this run of form, featuring in as many as 12 of those games.

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However, the going hasn’t been as smooth as the Red Devils would have expected – a glaring example of which was the FA Cup quarter-final match against the Canaries.

The fans might have expected an easy outing at Carrow Road but instead, Manchester United struggled and had it not been for the late second-half extra-time strike from Harry Maguire, the team might as well have been staring down the barrel.

Now, as Manchester United prepare to take on Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Cup on 18th July, there are question marks as to whether the team have the ability to compete against big teams if one or two of their key players are injured or unavailable for selection due to any other reason.

An unfamiliar starting line-up

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made as many as eight changes to his starting line-up from the mid-week win against Sheffield United, with six of those playing their first match since the start of March.

While Sergio Romero replaced David de Gea between the sticks, Diogo Dalot played instead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back. Victor Lindelof was rested, with Eric Bailly getting the chance at the centre of Manchester United’s defence.

Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata started, while Odion Ighalo played as the sole striker as the manager decided to rest both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

The two full-backs had a game to forget, failing to deliver the goods when needed at both ends of the pitch. Solskjaer had to replace Dalot with youngster Brandon Williams in the 63rd minute of the match.

Norwich City found it easy to get going down the left-hand side of the pitch, with Dalot often being caught out of position.

Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had tipped the youngster for a bright future but with such kind of performances, he could soon find his time up at Old Trafford, let alone improve his chance of replacing Wan-Bissaka as the first choice.

Below-par attacking display

Manchester United had started with Mason Greenwood, along with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in attack against Sheffield United on 24th June.

All three were benched for the Norwich game, with Odio Ighalo, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata replacing them in the starting line-up. While Ighalo was impressive, scoring his fifth goal in 11 appearances for the English giants, Mata and Lingard failed to impress.

There was a time when Lingard was tipped to be the next budding star for Manchester United but the promise has since faded away. The 27-year-old managed four shots on goal but none of them were on target.

To contribute to his misery, he failed to create even a single chance for his team-mates and had to be replaced by Rashford in the 63rd minute, in spite of his team holding a slender one-goal lead at that point of time.

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The case was somewhat similar with Mata, who in spite of showing sharpness prior to the break, has since seen his form take a significant dip.

The three-way supply line for striker Ighalo, consisting of him, Lingard and Bruno Fernandes looked static. Even Manchester United’s January signing looked unimpressive while combining with the other two.

The scenario looked even more serious, given the fact that Norwich counted on their two full-backs to support their attack.

On an overall analysis, therefore, it must be said that the Norwich City game showed the Norwegian manager the need to invest in the upcoming transfer window.

Reports suggest that the Red Devils are keeping their focus on securing a winger and a playmaker, with Solskjaer also stating the need to bring in another striker.

In a recent interview, the manager stressed the need to have competition for places at Old Trafford.

 “You need competition for places at Man United. If you think you’ve got a divine right to be playing every game and are doing so well that we’re not going to look for players to replace you, you’re in the wrong place.”

If this means letting some of the fringe players leave, the Manchester giants need to be ready for it.

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