Manchester City breezed past Premier League opposition in the form of Norwich City to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, although Louis van Gaal’s blunt Manchester United narrowly edged past Sheffield United at Old Trafford.
Saturday’s encounter was a platform for Manchester United’s players to gain confidence and understanding, but the opportunity was wasted as the Red Devils appeared lethargic and ineffectual against their League 1 opposition, in their predictable 4-2-3-1 formation.
Wayne Rooney scored a stoppage time penalty to save United from a new wave of embarrassment, in a match that saw them register just two shots on target. Substitute Memphis Depay made an impact when he was introduced and did well to compose a run in to the penalty area late on, which subsequently led to the penalty.
However The discomfort immersing United has stemmed from their tendency to play tedious and conservative sideways football under van Gaal, and in recent weeks the fans have been perplexed by the positions chosen for Ashley Young, Juan Mata and summer signing Anthony Martial. United travel to St James’ Park on Wednesday the 13th of January in search of the free-flowing offensive football that has eluded them throughout large parts of this season.
Meanwhile, Sergio Agüero surged past Norwich’s defence to put Manuel Pellegrini’s men 1-0 ahead after just 16 minutes, before the Argentine striker teased the Norwich defence and set up 19-year-old Nigerian sensation Kelechi Iheanacho for City’s second after half an hour of play. Agüero received the man of the match award and high praise from his manager, who stated, “Sergio Agüero scored a beautiful goal”.
From then on City were utterly dominant and added to their 2-0 advantage through Kevin De Bruyne’s powerful low shot. Pellegrini deserves great credit for fielding the majority of City’s first team, as Yaya Touré, Fernandinho and Bacary Sagna were the first team only players not to feature.
City will now turn their attention to bridging the 3 point gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Arsenal as they aim to pull clear at the top of the league, their next fixture will see them welcome Everton at The City of Manchester stadium on Wednesday.
TNT Sport Billy Rooney
photo credit: John Urquhart – Gordon Flood