Harry Maguire’s last gasp winner deep into extra time saved Manchester United from the ignominious lottery of a penalty shootout and sent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side into the FA Cup semi-finals.
Many expected a routine win for the in-form Reds against their struggling divisional rivals but Daniel Farke’s side failed to read the script and Todd Cantwell cancelled out Odion Ighalo’s instinctive first half opener to force an additional 30. Even when Timm Klose was sent off in the final minute of regulation time, Norwich defended heroically and looked set to withstand United’s extra-time onslaught until Maguire’s bundled winner in the 118th minute.
Solskjaer made eight changes with a trip to Brighton on the horizon on Tuesday in what will be our fourth game in twelve days and his rotated side struggled for long periods. That said, the result is all that matters and United now have a last four tie to look forward to.
The match also saw a little slice of history as United became the first team to use six substitutes in a competitive match. Here, we look at who starred and who flopped as the Reds – just – squeaked into the last four.
Sergio Romero – 6
United’s cup keeper was rendered almost anonymous despite a strangely erratic United showing. Questions will be asked over his goalkeeping for the equaliser, though. It was well hit and a good finish from Cantwell. A shot low right in the corner are always difficult for goalkeepers but could Romero have done better? If it was David de Gea and not Romero then you’d expect criticism. Perhaps the fact he had little to do affected his concentration.
Diogo Dalot – 3
Came in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka having not played since before lockdown in March and struggled to shake off his rust. His passing was poor, his positioning likewise and his crossing was wayward. Looked out of his depth and not good enough. Deservedly got taken off with AWB conspicuous by his absence. Indeed, until he was hooked I didn’t even know he was playing. A player you always think will offer more than he actually does. Poor.
Eric Bailly – 5
Came in alongside Maguire and was solid. Did nothing wrong but nothing spectacular either. Could have perhaps got closer to Cantwell for the goal and, as is his wont, there were a few heart in mouth moments. The man to secure a unique slice of history as he was the sixth man to come off with United pressing for a winner. Lindelof is still Solskjaer’s first choice but Bailly will play his part in the closing weeks of the season.
Harry Maguire – 8
Captain. Leader. Legend. OK not quite, but in a below par team performance Maguire was our man of the match. Made a crucial block from Buendia with the tie on a knife edge shortly before half time and had two good headers saved before his priceless late winner. Maguire has now scored twice in this competition and led from the front when United were in danger of going under. You feel we’d have lost that game six months ago and the fact we came through a testing examination was largely down to Maguire. Impressive in both boxes.
Luke Shaw – 7
One of United’s better performers. Popped up with a vital contribution for the opener and nothing got past him on his 14th consecutive start at left-back. Did well against Norwich’s talented young winger Jamal Lewis including a superb tackle with the tricky Canary poised in a dangerous position. Norwich rarely threatened down his flank and linked with Fernandes well.
Scott McTominay – 6
Started brightly but faded despite his effort and industry and seemed to be bogged down by the unfamiliar faces ahead of him. Good in the tackle but his distribution was patchy and didn’t do himself justice. Certainly not alone there, but we know his ability and he remains a key cog in Solskjaer’s midfield. Taken off and replaced by Matic late on to wrestle back control of United’s loose midfield.
Fred – 7
His usual combative self, linking the play well and used the ball intelligently. Played a part in the opening goal and was perhaps United’s most reliable distributor. Best of a bad bunch and kept us ticking in difficult moments. Got taken off with Brighton in mind but that was no reflection on his performance. Worked hard as always but sometimes drifted in and out of the game.
Juan Mata – 3
Slow and ponderous, he looked woefully off the pace and devoid of the spark we’ve come to expect from him. Had one moment of quality where he flicked on for Ighalo to nab the opener, but this was a performance that shows why he’s only a squad player. My favourite player, I love this guy but his legs have gone and you feel this could be his last season as a player in Red. Was fortunate to last as long as he did before being taken off. His best days are behind him.
Bruno Fernandes – 5
Undoubtedly his worst game for the club. Wasteful, frequently overplayed and seemed to try too hard. Made a few surging runs and there was one piece of excellent defensive work near the end, but this was tired showing. He could do with a rest but you can see why Solskjaer picked him from the start. Has a penchant for the spectacular but it failed to come off on a night that he looked jaded. Needs a rest but with top four on the line I’m not sure we can afford to give him one. United were guilty of overplaying and overthinking and Fernandes was the epitome of that. Never gave up though and a moment of magic led to the sending off incident.
Jesse Lingard – 3
Had a couple of bright moments early on but faded to the fringes and eventually became anonymous. This had the feeling of a pivotal, make or break night for a man with more lives than a cat but he simply didn’t do enough. Surely this is the end of the road for a player who continues to be a passenger. Rusty in his first game for months but, like Mata, he’s just not good enough. Doesn’t get anywhere near United’s regular first choice XI.
Odion Ighalo – 7
Had to feed on scraps and looked a bit awkward at times, but continued his good record in the cups games and got another goal having started. A classic poacher’s finish, Ighalo took his chance superbly when it came. Got little service but did nothing wrong and continues to prove his worth. Did well. Five goals in five cup games now for the club.
Brandon Williams – for Dalot 63 – 7
Unlucky not to start but came on to offer pace and stability out of position at right-back. Produced a superb last ditch tackle on the lively Onel Hernandez to keep United alive and kicking. Good showing.
Mason Greenwood – for Mata 63 – 6
Lost the ball a few times but made a couple of surging runs and twice went close to a winner. Should have started ahead of Lingard but did nothing wrong. Used his pace well and asked some questions
Marcus Rashford – for Lingard 63 – 6
Still looked a little way short of his best but got more minutes – presumably in readiness to come in from the start at Brighton. Quiet.
Paul Pogba – for Fred 78 – 7
Ole flexed his bench muscle in style by unleashing the World Cup winner 12 minutes from the end. Arguably should have come on earlier but it was another impressive cameo. Opened Norwich up and produced another moment of match-winning magic for Maguire’s winner. The Reds seemed a yard quicker and sharper after he had come on. Answered his critics again.
Nemanja Matic – for McTominay 78 – 5
Came on for McTominay and provided a calming influence on the ball. United’s ball retention notably improved when the rangy Serb was introduced. The in-form Matic added more muscle and a different dimension. Solid. Another being saved for United’s hectic run-in.
Anthony Martial – for Bailly 96- 7
Following his hat-trick against Sheffield United, Martial again wrote his name into the history books by becoming the Reds first ever sixth substitute. Thrown on to find a winner, Martial’s movement created space and he looked lively again. Had to work hard to find space but gave Norwich something to think about as Solskjaer added him to United’s crowded attack in a 4-2-4.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – 6
I understand why Ole selected the team he did but he perhaps made too many changes and as a result the team were disjointed. He loyally stuck with the team that got us past Derby in the last round but in the end, sheer weight of numbers and United’s extra quality made the difference from the bench. It seems Solskjaer had words at half time – his version of the hairdryer – and the Reds eventually found a way. In previous years, the team may have collapsed and let heads drop but Solskjaer ensured that did not happen. But a win’s a win, the result is the most important thing and a semi final awaits.