Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 3-1 Premier League defeat to Manchester United

Tim Krul makes his second penalty save of the first half in Norwich City's 3-1 Premier League defeat

Tim Krul makes his second penalty save of the first half in Norwich City's 3-1 Premier League defeat to Manchester United Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Manchester United verdict after the Canaries’ 3-1 Premier League loss

Norwich City keeper Tim Krul denies Marcus Rashford from the penalty spot in the first half Picture:

Norwich City keeper Tim Krul denies Marcus Rashford from the penalty spot in the first half Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

1. Duncan and defiance

A day that began with a poignant tribute to Duncan Forbes finished with a defiant burst of 'Yellows' from the terraces but bar Tim Krul's magnificently obdurate display this was too easy again.

The Canaries allowed another Premier League rival to over-power them and punish naive defensive lapses. Granted this was a rival who can call on the rather considerable attacking thrust of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Dan James.

But after a genuinely bright start and a sense home fans and players were determined to match up on an emotional occasion they subsided far too easily.

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The use of VAR mixed with Krul's two penalty stops and fresh late injury concerns ensured plenty of talking points but essentially this was another exercise when collectively and individually Norwich fell short. At this level, against these teams and players, that is simply not going to be good enough.

2. King Krul

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Krul produced two penalty stops in the first half that ensured United were not out of sight before half-time. The Dutchman pushed his luck to delay both Rashford and then Martial as he urged the Lower Barclay to play their part in the distraction prior to the spot kicks.

But then Krul delivered with two excellent pieces of anticipation to foil the Red Devils' duo.

That came after a breathtaking point blank reaction stop to thwart Martial which had almost receded into the memory in the aftermath of his penalty prowess.

In a creaking defensive unit, Krul remains a bulwark of resistance. It will take much more than that to turn plucky performances into points and Premier League progress.

But there can be few more influential actors on their respective sides in the top flight.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but a Norwich side without Krul for any length of time in the weeks ahead would send a shiver down the spine. He needs others to step up.

3. VAR-mageddon

Okay. It doesn't work. But does the video assistant referee system either, for that matter?

However it was conceived, whatever the merits of the Premier League's slimmed down approach - with the balance tipped towards those in front of screens rather than the man in the middle - there is fresh controversy every single weekend in the Premier League.

Up until now, the new innovation had largely passed Norwich by.

They certainly played catch up in the first half against United. Ben Godfrey was adjudged to have hauled down James when the case for the defence suggested James careered as much into the City centre back. Then Todd Cantwell was punished for turning his back to make an attempted aerial block from Fred.

The ball appeared to strike the point of his elbow but referee Attwell saw nothing in real-time to award either penalty.

If both calls constitute a 'clear and obvious mistake' then all you ask is such unflinching consistency is applied every single game - irrespective of whether it goes for or against.

But don't hold your breath.

4. Cotton wool Cantwell

It was a rough afternoon for the Dereham diamond. The attacking midfielder blazed over the first chance of the game from Max Aarons' cut back, when at the very least with time and space he needed to test David De Gea.

There was a much better effort the Spaniard did acrobatically divert towards the end of the first half but in between there was a sloppy touch inside his own box that was ruthlessly punished by Scott McTominay.

Then Cantwell was adjudged to have handled Fred's rising strike, although Krul did the business from the penalty. That felt a harsh call but underscored this feels like a testing spell after his burgeoning start to life in the Premier League.

For one so young and so inexperienced, Cantwell is massively over-achieving. But knowing when to dip young players out for a breather is a managerial skill in itself.

With Onel Hernandez back in the mix and notching his first top flight goal late on, Farke might have the opportunity in the games ahead.

5. Bigger picture

Norwich have now won only one Premier League game in the last eight. That Manchester City triumph looks increasingly like a beacon in a sobering run of reality checks.

But perhaps of greater concern is the 0-0 stalemate at Bournemouth was the only draw in that run. If City are not creating enough or are clinical enough to win games they have to be able to grind out draws. They are doing neither in this spell.

That is a mix that ends back where they started. In the Football League. Injuries have hung heavy over recent months but with the treatment room now far less congested there are more bodies on the training pitches of Colney and more time for Farke to fashion a template that can produce resistance and be residually effective.

In the context of the bigger picture this season the next two look huge. Brighton away, followed by a visit from the only team currently below them in Watford.

For the majority of realistic Norwich supporters this spell is hardly a huge surprise.

But there needs to be more sustained signals City have enough about them to compete beyond sporadic fits and spurts.

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