Man United beats Norwich 4-0 as Giggs takes charge
Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata scored twice to ensure Ryan Giggs' spell as interim Manchester United manager began with a comfortable 4-0 victory against a mediocre Norwich side in the Premier League on Saturday.
It was an upbeat end to a turbulent week at Old Trafford that saw David Moyes dismissed just 10 months after succeeding Alex Ferguson, paying the price for taking the club from champions to seventh place.
However uplifting this rout was for disgruntled fans, it came against a relegation-threatened team with the worst away record in the league. And United did also score four goals in winning two of Moyes' last three domestic fixtures.
Although there could be a clamor for Giggs to stay in charge after these remaining four matches of the season, United plans to appoint a more experienced, proven trophy winner. Outgoing Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal is the favorite for the job.
"Giggs has got all the credentials to be the next manager but that's down to the board," Rooney said.
The 40-year-old Giggs has grown up at Old Tafford, from coming as a supporter, rising through the youth team, becoming the club's most decorated player, and now occupying the manager's seat in the dugout
"It's the rock which my life has been built upon," Giggs said in the match-day program of the club.
Having joked on Friday he would award himself a new five-year playing contract, Giggs denied himself a 963rd United appearance.
Watching from the sidelines in a club suit, Giggs ensured the team provided the cathartic experience desired by all at Old Trafford nearing the end of this season of unparalleled inferiority and disorder at United in the Premier League era.
Although there was never a mutinous atmosphere even in the lowest points of Moyes' ill-fated reign, there has not been this much joy inside the ground for some time, supporters cheering loudly as Giggs emerged from the tunnel before kickoff. Fans inside the Theatre of Dreams will start dreaming again of a brighter future.
As if to emphasize the extent of the club moving on after Moyes, it came with Saturday's start.
Marouane Fellaini, the overpriced 27.5 million-pound ($46 million) midfield signing which defined Moyes' reign, didn't even make the bench and Mata, the club's record 37.1 million-pound ($62 million) signing in January, was dropped from the starting line-up. Talented teenager Adnan Januzaj, who broke into the first team under Moyes, wasn't in the match-day squad.
The pre-match message by Giggs to the team was: entertain, attack, play with a tempo. But it was listless for much of the first half against a well-drilled Norwich side. It took more than 10 minutes for United striker Danny Welbeck to test goalkeeper John Ruddy.
"Giggs will tear us apart," the fans chanted.
Instead of patrolling the technical area, how United needed the Giggs of old to liven up an initial drab display. Attracting more interest were the skies where a plane with a "Thank u Moyes" streaking behind it emerged — weeks after a publicity-seeking group of fans sent a "Moyes out" banner over the ground.
While Norwich lacked adventure going forward, United was thwarted again by goalkeeper John Ruddy, who blocked Antonio Valencia's powerful strike.
The breakthrough came after referee Lee Probert decided that Steven Whittaker's contact before Welbeck fell merited a penalty.
Rooney scored from the penalty spot in the 41st minute to lift the atmosphere before halftime, and he was on target again inside three minutes of the second half. The England striker drifted in from the left unchallenged before unleashing a shot into the bottom corner of the net while slipping.
Norwich only managed its first shot on target in the 59th, with Roberto Snodgrass' free kick pushed away by goalkeeper David de Gea.
But United was cruising by this point — after Mata's arrival from the bench ensured the victory was even more convincing.
The Spain midfielder scored inside three minutes. It started with Rooney's long-range strike being parried by Ruddy, Valencia retrieved the ball, cut it back to Phil Jones and Mata completed the move by scoring in the 63rd. Mata nodded another over the line 10 minutes later after Valencia met Patrice Evra's cross with a volley.
Had United managed similar displays against the leading teams this season, Moyes might still be in a job and the team might be challenging for the title not a Europa League spot.
"We underperformed, we obviously have to take a lot of the responsibility but we have to move on," Rooney said. "We have to show we are a top team and that's what we plan to do."