Giggs Returns United's Cutting Edge...

After an arduous first half, Manchester United improved markedly to thrash Norwich 4-0. Matt Stanger was impressed by Ryan Giggs in the caretaker's first match in charge...

Last Updated: 28/04/14 at 09:30 Post Comment

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The worst away record in the Premier League, the lowest number of goals, and a striker who hasn't found the net since the opening day of the season. Norwich were the perfect opponent for Ryan Giggs' first match as Manchester United manager, but the manner of the hosts' victory is still something to cherish in a season of disappointment at Old Trafford.

This wasn't quite the United of old - as an arduous first half would attest - but it also wasn't the United of David Moyes, or at least the team that we have seen struggle through most of the campaign under Giggs' predecessor. Unlike the desperate performance in the 2-0 defeat to Everton, United were clearly playing for their manager - and for each other - moving the ball at speed and without fear of expressing themselves.

That wasn't always the case before the break, however, and if Giggs has any sympathy for Moyes, it would have increased as he watched his team huff and puff without ever really threatening John Ruddy before Wayne Rooney's 40th-minute penalty. "There is no magic wand," said Gary Neville on Sky Sports after half an hour. "You can't just turn it on and off like a tap."

But Giggs, looking the part in his sharp suit and United tie, certainly didn't look helpless, despite the players failing to get off to the fast start he had hoped for. "I told the players to go out and enjoy it, to express themselves," said the manager in his pre-match interview. "I trust them." His decision to start old heads Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand certainly helped in that aim, but Giggs was quickly out of his seat in the seventh minute to offer further instruction as supporters chanted his name.

As he made his way along the touchline before kick-off, one young fan held up a banner declaring 'In Giggs We Trust', and it proved to be a fitting sentiment. When United emerged for the second half, the nerves and confusion of the first period quickly vanished. Whatever Giggs said at the interval clearly had a great effect, as the team began moving the ball with more purpose and displayed better balance between midfield and attack.

Rooney's second strike saw the hosts increase the tempo even further. Each passing minute was another to erase the memory of Moyes' reign, with United growing in confidence and playing with a freedom and fluency that has so often deserted them this year. Substitutions were always an area in which Moyes failed to impress, but even leaving Juan Mata on the bench worked perfectly for Giggs as the Spaniard came on to score a brace in his half-hour cameo.

It's worth remembering that Moyes won his first league match 4-1 at Swansea on an afternoon that feels like a lifetime ago. But gaining that sort of performance from a team that won the division by 11 points last year is an easier task than eking Saturday's display out of a side who have woefully underperformed for the last eight months. "It's always nice to end the game like we did, creating chances," said Giggs at full-time. It was another area in which he surpassed Moyes.

Indeed, the killer stat to demonstrate the difference in United's approach is that the last time they managed more shots on target in a single Premier League game was against Wolves in December 2011. That's also 18 months under Ferguson that Giggs has eclipsed in one respect - and a rather crucial one at that. "He's built to be a manager. We can see that as a team," said Rooney in his post-match interview.

The United role has surely come too soon in his career as a manager (although many who watched the team under Moyes would argue not soon enough), but Giggs' first game in charge brought back the cutting edge synonymous with United in the Premier League. It was both encouraging and exhilarating - and something supporters will hope to see more of in the final three games.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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