Ralf Rangnick questioned Manchester United’s lack of physicality in the 1-0 narrow victory over Norwich City and agreed that his side have further room for improvement.
United have achieved two consecutive Premier League wins since Rangnick took over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a temporary basis thanks to a 75-minute penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo scored United’s 50th away penalty in the competition – only Liverpool (60) scored more – after Max Aarons was judged for taking him down.
The Red Devils worked hard on Carrow Road and required a couple of nice saves from David de Gea to deny Teemu Pukki and Ozan Kabak in the end.
United only marginally scored Norwich’s possession (53%) and pass count (492 to 426), and Rangnick was not entirely satisfied with his team’s performance.
“It was an away match, a very physical, intense match,” he told Sky Sport. “I already told Dean [Smith] they played very well, they didn’t play at all as a bottom team.
“They played like we did against Crystal Palace. In the first 15 minutes we struggled tactically, but then it went better. We didn’t give them many chances in the first half.
“In the second half, we had better body language up front, but we still gave them too many chances and corners. In the end it was De Gea who guaranteed the clean sheet.
“It’s about the intensity of the game, the physicality, the body language. At this level, you need to be physically present, and that wasn’t always the case.
“In some situations it was like that, but not always. If you want to stay in control of a game like this, you have to be physically present, and this has not been the case in all positions. “
United ended the match with a target return (xG) of 2.04, scoring from one of their 13 shots, five of which went on goal, the same number that Norwich did.
Rangnick added: “Some of our players are technical players and there wasn’t much room for technical solutions today.
“So you have to be physically brave and compete on that kind of level in terms of physicality, and that was something we didn’t do in all positions.”
Asked if his team played with less physicality than they showed in last week’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, Rangnick said: “It was not deliberate.
Today was an away match and the other team played much more aggressive than Palace against us, so we need to increase our intensity level in games like this.
“It’s not just a matter of individual players, it’s how we play together as a team. But it’s also a question of who wins the balls, and the second balls?
“Shall we take the second balls? As I said, in every position, it was not the same.
“You learn every game, but at least we got the three points, another clean sheet. We have to improve, we have to improve, that’s for sure ”.
4 & 7 – No player has scored more Premier League winning goals this season than Cristiano Ronaldo (4, on par with Bernardo Silva), while only Jamie Vardy’s goals (8 points) have earned more points for his team than those of Ronaldo (7 points). Reliable. pic.twitter.com/bvLkbs8Zrq
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 11, 2021
Rangnick is only the second United manager to score a clean sheet in his first two league games at the helm of the club since Ernest Mangnall in 1903.
Harry Maguire, who played a major role in both games and led the way against Norwich with up to six passes, was happy to get out of Norfolk with three points.
“It was a tough game,” he told Sky Sports. “We didn’t play as we would like. These were difficult conditions to play in. But for us there are three important points and a clean sheet.
“When you play from week to week, some performances won’t be at their peak.
“We had to dig deep and stick together. We had to show spirit and we got three points. But we have to play better than that if we are to achieve what we want to achieve.
“We were very disappointed with our defensive record this year. David made two or three big saves to keep the clean sheet.
“Those were the best saves of a great goalkeeper and that’s what we expect. Two on the rebound we have to build and start again on Tuesday ”.