Relief for United after goal No 2,000 sets up another away win
Without an away win in any competition since March, Manchester United suddenly had two in three days.
They followed three points in Europe on Thursday by gleaning the same haul at Norwich City on Sunday.
They could even afford to spurn two penalties, both in the first half. They rendered redundant Tim Krul’s early heroics at Carrow Road, proving too strong for their struggling hosts to end an testing week on a positive note.
United won 3-1, leaping from sixth bottom in the table to seventh. For the first time since the opening-day evisceration of Chelsea, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had scored two goals in a game.
Scott McTominay got the first, securing United’s position as the first club to notch 2,000 goals in the Premier League.
Other landmark scorers include Andrew Cole (500), Cristiano Ronaldo (1,000) and Dimitar Berbatov (1,500). But the Scottish product of the club’s famed youth academy deserved his place in the record books.
One of the better performers in United’s worst start to a campaign in 33 years, McTominay continued to contribute. On 21 minutes, he pounced upon a failed clearance, swivelled and swept his low shot past Krul.
From there, the game veered into the unexpected. Daniel James went down in the Norwich area and, although referee Stuart Attwell waved away appeals for a penalty, VAR overturned the decision.
Ben Godfrey appeared to have been the one fouled, yet United were gifted the spot-kick. That Krul saved well from Marcus Rashford felt like justice being meted out. It was his second penalty miss this season.
Within a minute, Rashford had atoned, latching onto James’ raking pass to take a touch and calmly slot underneath Krul. Finally, United had two in a game; Rashford his 50th goal for the club in all competitions.
Before the half was out, he passed up the opportunity to add another. Fred fired against Todd Cantwell, who jumped with arms raised, VAR was again consulted and a penalty once more awarded. Again, though, Krul came to the rescue, this time saving comfortably from Anthony Martial.
It was more than just reward for the Norwich goalkeeper. Earlier, he had somehow blocked a Martial header from point-blank range, thwarted Rashford from an acute angle and later tipped over from Fred.
Norwich, meanwhile, were left to wonder would what have been had Cantwell converted the first chance of the match, only five minutes in. Instead, he blazed over from 15 yards. Without a win in four matches – when they shocked champions Manchester City – and second from bottom, Norwich needed any help they could get.
It never arrived. At the beginning of the second half, Teemu Pukki fired high when well placed. Having scored six in his first five Premier League matches, he now has none in the five since.
In contrast, Martial appears in rude health. On 72 minutes, the Frenchman exchanged passes with Rashford, latching onto the latter’s clever backheel to scoop over Krul. Justifying his return to the starting line-up, it was Martial’s fourth goal in his past six matches.
With it, United offered Solskjaer further solace, the only blot Onel Hernandez’s late consolation for Norwich. Still, a first away win in nine Premier League attempts brought Solskjaer’s fifth victory in the 18 matches since the Norwegian got the job permanenly.
A seven-day stretch that began with that make-or-break match-up with runaway leaders Liverpool concluded with a draw and two victories.
After Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday, Solskjaer called for momentum to be built at Norwich. From an initially helter-skelter contest, his men emerged with mission accomplished.
Scott McTominay, right, after scoring United’s first goal