The Week In Manchester United: Mata maintains Red Devils' Champions League charge

Republik of Mancunia writer Scott Patterson praises the Spaniard who kept the dream alive by saving Louis van Gaal's men at Norwich...

This week in five words

Top four is back on.

What went well

Manchester United beat Norwich, which is a result that the neutrals probably predicted, but United supporters weren't very confident of.

When you look at United's results away from home, and then look at their results against the teams at the bottom of the table, they don't fare too well. So when you have those two things combined, it stood to reason that United wouldn't get the result they wanted at Carrow Road.

To get the win on the back of resting a few key players, who will now be fresher for Tuesday's all-important game at West Ham, is a great outcome for United. 

To make that result all the sweeter, the next day Manchester City dropped points against Arsenal, meaning that if United win their remaining two games they qualify for next season's Champions League.

The thought of finishing the season in the top four with a trophy is fairly remarkable when you consider how poor this season has been for United.

United stumbled but fell into three points at Norwich

It's very Arsenal-esque to consider that a successful campaign. But given how dreadful that period in the run-up to Christmas was, supporters would rightly celebrate a more positive ending to the season, even if it's miles away from where the club should be.

What didn’t

The game against Norwich was dreadful, particularly the first half. At the beginning of the season, these performances were depressing, whereas now the supporters are just clinging on to the hope there are just a few more hours to endure before Louis van Gaal is sacked.

It was so boring though and the players looked like they couldn't be bothered. There were three minutes of injury time at the end of the first half, and instead of busting a gut to try and go in with a goal lead, the players were actually walking around with the ball at their feet. Awful.

Anthony Martial's injury didn't go down too well either, particularly considering that United had no strikers on the bench with Marcus Rashford rested from the squad altogether.

Hopefully, the Frenchman and Rashford will make their return on Tuesday against West Ham, so the team has some pace in it. Van Gaal got away with it on Saturday.

Mata saved Van Gaal's bacon

Quote of the week 

"My personal hope is that we would never see him playing in the Premier League again" – Jamie Carragher on Marouane Fellaini after elbowing Robert Huth for pulling his hair.

You know, the same Carragher who wore a Luis Suarez t-shirt after he was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, and who argued why biting Giorgio Chiellini – the Uruguayan's third bite victim during his career so far – shouldn't prevent him from playing for Liverpool.

The need-to-know facts

  • Juan Mata has scored more Premier League goals against Norwich City than against any other opponent (5).
  • Wayne Rooney is now joint-third for assists in Premier League history (95, level with Cesc Fabregas).
  • United have lost only once in their last 7 Premier League games (W5 D1).
  • Van Gaal's men have kept more clean sheets than any other Premier League team this season (18).

Video of the week

Several weeks after stating footballers fail to lead normal lives, Mata proves that he's all heart in front of the Carrow Road crowd.

Winner of the week

If the clip above isn't reason enough, Mata's man-of-the-match performance against Norwich on Saturday surely is.

The Spaniard scored the only goal in United's 1-0 win at Norwich, and was the only player who looked to make things happen, particularly in the second half. Despite being used out wide, he completed more passes than anyone on the field, and did so with a 96% passing accuracy.

Only two United players have scored more goals than him in the league, and only one has assisted more.

Anthony Crolla should probably get a mention here too. Top red, and against the odds, is still the world champion after knocking out Ismael Barroso.

Crolla: You tell him it's not a goalie top

Loser of the week

Memphis Depay had an awful time at Carrow Road. He managed to see out the 90 minutes, despite it looking at one point as though Adnan Januzaj may replace him, but looked totally bereft of confidence.

He couldn't take a player on, his free kicks were off target or straight at the wall, and when in a great position to score he ran straight in to a defender.

His boyhood club PSV won the title this weekend too, so you can only imagine what he's thinking about the decision to leave them last summer for the joyless season he's endured at United.

Depay is struggling to make any impact

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