Rash­ford relief but con­tro­versy at VAR and two saved penal­ties

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By James Ducker at Car­row Road

A week that threat­ened to turn ugly for Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer ended with Manch­ester United fans ser­e­nad­ing their man­ager and two play­ers who had missed penal­ties on a chaotic af­ter­noon at Car­row Road com­bin­ing to roll back the years for a side who had seem­ingly for­got­ten how to at­tack.

It is prob­a­bly too early to tell if the past seven days will sig­nal a cor­ner turned af­ter United’s worst start to a sea­son for 33 years. But, as their sup­port­ers toasted an ar­rest­ing third goal and a first league away win for eight months, this felt like a no­table mo­ment all the same.

Sure, the days of Sol­sk­jaer scor­ing an in­jury-time win­ner against Bay­ern Mu­nich in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal still feel a long way away and United will have a tough chal­lenge when they visit Chelsea at Stam­ford Bridge in the Carabao Cup on Wed­nes­day.

Yet, af­ter a pos­i­tive draw against the Premier League lead­ers Liver­pool last week­end and Thurs­day’s Eu­ropa League win away to Par­ti­zan Bel­grade, this was another step in the right di­rec­tion as Sol­sk­jaer’s play­ers start to re­sem­ble some­thing ap­proach­ing what you ex­pect from a

United side go­ing for­ward.

This could have been a day when all the talk was about the two penal­ties United missed as their spot-kick woe con­tin­ued, and yet another un­fath­omable de­ci­sion from the video as­sis­tant ref­eree that in­vited wide­spread be­muse­ment. But, by the end, it was all about United at­tack­ing with the sort of con­vic­tion and flu­ency not seen since the 4-0 open­ing-day vic­tory over Chelsea.

Mar­cus Rash­ford missed the first penalty, af­ter one of those VAR de­ci­sions that left you won­der­ing what they are smok­ing down at Stock­ley Park, and An­thony Mar­tial the se­cond, with the out­stand­ing Tim Krul sav­ing both.

But United’s for­ward pair­ing re­cov­ered su­perbly to shoot down Nor­wich in im­pres­sive fash­ion while the sprightly Fred and Scott Mctom­i­nay, scorer of United’s first, dom­i­nated the mid­field. Sol­sk­jaer has not been afraid to talk up Mar­tial and if this is the sort of in­flu­ence United can ex­pect him to wield now he is back af­ter an eightweek in­jury lay-off, then they should keep climb­ing the ta­ble.

United’s crown­ing glory was the third goal. Ash­ley Young won pos­ses­sion from just in­side Nor­wich’s half and from there Rash­ford and Mar­tial ex­changed six touches dur­ing a quick, in­ci­sive, de­light­ful dash to­wards goal that bamboozled

Nor­wich and cul­mi­nated in Rash­ford de­liv­er­ing the ball into Mar­tial’s path with a gor­geous back­heel and the French­man coolly dink­ing the ball over the ad­vanc­ing Krul.

Sol­sk­jaer was asked if it re­minded him of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in their pomp. “Nah, Sol­sk­jaer and Sher­ing­ham,” he replied, laugh­ing. “It was great to see them link up. We’ve missed An­thony these last two months and it’s great to have him back. Him and Mar­cus are just go­ing to im­prove and grow.

“An­thony is vi­tal for us, he’s a top striker and to have him back, fit, smil­ing and en­joy­ing his foot­ball is a big thing for us.”

Mctom­i­nay had opened the scor­ing with a smart fin­ish af­ter Todd Cantwell had failed to clear An­dreas Pereira’s cross mo­ments af­ter Krul had kept out Mar­tial’s header with a re­flex save. Then came the game’s most con­tro­ver­sial mo­ment - and the first penalty miss.

When Mar­tial re­leased Daniel James through the mid­dle, the United winger, if any­thing, ap­peared the one more guilty of an in­fringe­ment as he leaned sharply into Nor­wich de­fender Ben God­frey. Still, it was lit­tle more than a com­ing to­gether of two

op­po­nents and ref­eree Stu­art At­twell in­stantly sig­nalled no penalty. And yet, af­ter two min­utes of de­lib­er­a­tion, David Coote, the VAR, said oth­er­wise and, with some sense of jus­tice, Rash­ford’s weak spot-kick was saved. Like Daniel Farke, his Nor­wich coun­ter­part, Sol­sk­jaer was baf­fled by the de­ci­sion. “I don’t think it’s a penalty,” the United man­ager said. “If it takes two min­utes [to de­cide] it’s not clear and ob­vi­ous,’’ he said.

Sol­sk­jaer also felt both penal­ties should have been re­taken with Krul step­ping off his line, an in­fringe­ment he feels is now go­ing un­pun­ished af­ter an ini­tial at­tempt to clamp down on such sit­u­a­tions at the start of the sea­son.

Rash­ford could have slumped at that point. In­stead, he dusted him­self off and min­utes later had claimed United’s se­cond, cush­ion­ing a lovely, speared cross­field pass from the lively James and fin­ish­ing with aplomb past Krul.

Still, United can­not keep shoot­ing them­selves in the foot from the spot and there was more trou­ble to come af­ter Mar­tial was also thwarted by Krul af­ter Fred’s shot hit Cantwell’s out­stretched arm and the VAR awarded another penalty, this time cor­rectly. Make that four misses from six penal­ties awarded in the league now for United this sea­son.

Although Onel Her­nan­dez pulled a goal back for Nor­wich late on to deny United a clean sheet, this was much more like the United of old.

Sol­sk­jaer just has to hope it is the start of some­thing.

2000 Scott Mctom­i­nay’s opener was Manch­ester United’s 2,000th goal in the Premier League

Cool fin­ish: An­thony Mar­tial scores United’s third to wrap up vic­tory

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