Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s brave 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final extra-time loss to Manchester United
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Manchester United verdict after the Canaries’ spirited 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final extra-time defeat.
You can be sure when Manchester United shelled out reportedly north of £80m for Harry Maguire it was not for his goalscoring instincts. But Maguire’s sliding finish seconds from penalty kicks may well alter the course of his club’s season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure at Old Trafford.
It was a cruel blow for a Norwich side reduced to 10 men in normal time, and who limped into what looked a one-sided FA Cup quarter-final tie on the back of a desperately disappointing Premier League return.
Those City fans who would dearly loved to be present for a landmark occasion at Carrow Road finally watched the performance they were hoping for in the league. Full of spirit, tenacity, a refusal to buckle when they conceded again so soon after the break and a dash of genuine goalscoring quality from one of their own. At that stage there was only one team in the ascendancy.
But too often this season City have fallen the wrong side in the biggest moments. So it was to prove again. But on this occasion surely only the coldest heart would seek to take them to task for their perceived failings.
How they recover for a league trip to Arsenal is anyone’s guess at present. This will sting the body, mind and soul.
2. Rash red
Not so much Timm Klose’s tug on Odion Ighalo on the edge of his box, that earned the ultimate sanction from Jon Moss.
It was centre back partner Ben Godfrey, trying to nick the ball from Bruno Fernandes in the passage of play that immediately preceded Klose’s dismissal.
The keenness of youth from a talented Englishman who did not look out of place in some illustrious company.
Godfrey’s Premier League journey has been a steep learning curve. Excellent on the opening night at Liverpool. A few inevitable dips, injuries, a red card himself at home to Bournemouth and in truth more recently a difficult opening night return against Southampton.
To his credit he had responded well until his inadvertent deflection was swept home by Maguire seconds from penalty kicks.
But decision-making, in his position at the highest level, is all part of the toolkit required if he wants to fulfil his undoubted potential. The immediate ramifications will stretch beyond this quarter-final tie for Norwich, with Klose now suspended for one game.
It never rains but it pours for the Canaries and their defensive stocks.
3. Central station. All aboard the Todd Cantwell express
Dereham’s finest conjured a stunning finish from long range to take this tie into extra-time. It came after a positional switch infield to that attacking number 10 area which, in truth, the young man has looked born to play as he emerged through the Canaries’ academy.
Cantwell’s night unfortunately ended with an abductor issue in a frenetic final quarter of normal time. But not just his goal, his all round awareness, touch, vision and technique knitted City together in an all too brief cameo which has been a rarity in the top flight for his team.
Ondrej Duda was enticed to England to provide that X-factor in and around Teemu Pukki. It has failed to materialise. But the answer could lie closer to home. At least in the short term. Much depends both on Cantwell’s fitness and in all probability which league his boyhood club inhabit next season.
4. Reliable Rupp?
Certainly his inclusion in the starting line up appeared to have irked a large sample of the City fanbase on social media. Not that that constitutes a reliable guide. However, the German has yet to convince many his versatility can be an asset at the highest level in England.
Farke certainly has no such reservations, and perhaps we saw a glimpse into the near future with his re-deployment into a more central role with a clear brief to break up play, cover Emi Buendia’s attacking urges and generally use his nous and experience.
There was numerous first half examples. Plus a shot at the opposite end that ranked as one of City’s best counter-attacking forays. He made way for Onel Hernandez, with Norwich striving to respond after falling behind. Although the laboured walk around the perimeter of the pitch was confirmed as a hip problem by his boss afterwards.
Rupp may not have the guile or the athleticism to add another dimension to Norwich’s creative work against Premier League opponents. But with Alex Tettey, in particular, entering the twilight of his Carrow Road career, Rupp might be an option in that area of the pitch should it be Championship opponents next season.
5. It’s just not fair. Get used to it
Surely there has never been a more expensive array of talent parked on the opposition bench at Carrow Road? Not even Manchester City earlier this season, with Kevin De Bruyne was named among the substitutes.
Their Manchester rivals had a collection of World Cup winners, European champions and some of the brightest English talent in Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
It was truly a frightening sight. Albeit probably a boost to the City players when the team sheet dropped an hour before kick-off. If ever there was a graphic illustration of what Norwich have faced routinely in the Premier League this season that was it.
Hundreds of millions of pounds on the open transfer market kept in reserve. The Reds’ starting roster still contained the likes of match-winner Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Juan Mata.
Take it as a back-handed compliment to City’s spirit all those assets had to be thrown into the fray. Rather than be cowed, Norwich rose to the challenge.
That is what they need to do for the remainder of this Premier League campaign.