Football: Four-star United launch Giggs era in style

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (left) scores a penalty against Norwich during their English Premier League match at Old Trafford in Manchester on April 26, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (left) scores a penalty against Norwich during their English Premier League match at Old Trafford in Manchester on April 26, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER (AFP) - Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata scored two goals apiece as the temporary reign of Ryan Giggs as manager of Manchester United began with a convincing 4-0 win against Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday, April 26, 2014.

The scoreline represented United's largest home league win of the season as the soon-to-be deposed English champions did their best to put the disappointments of their time under David Moyes, sacked as manager on Tuesday, behind them.

United great Giggs was granted a predictably warm and passionate welcome by home fans who had become increasingly disillusioned by the direction their club was heading under Moyes.

But, well before Rooney shot United ahead from the penalty spot four minutes before the interval, Old Trafford had become far more subdued after a fairly underwhelming start to the game - and the new manager's reign - by their team.

Indeed, the biggest cheer in the early stages came when Giggs, promoted from player-coach to caretaker charge for the final four games of the season, strode from the dugout to the touchline to remonstrate with referee Lee Probert about the award of a throw-in to the visitors.

And by the time Rooney scored from a penalty, awarded for Steven Whittaker's tug on Danny Welbeck as he attempted to connect with Phil Jones's tricky cross, the most newsworthy incident had been provided by a plane, funded by Maltese fans of other clubs, which trailed a banner sarcastically thanking Moyes for his work at Old Trafford.

In keeping with Giggs's promise that his team would make a "fast start", Welbeck and Antonio Valencia were active early in attempting to place Norwich under pressure.

And the caretaker manager had made a powerful statement pre-match when Moyes's two big signings Mata and Marouane Fellaini were left out of his starting line-up, the latter not even handed a place on the bench, as part of six changes made from the side beaten by Everton - Moyes's former club - in the Scot's last game as United boss.

Initially, there was no major improvement in the form of United, whose defeat by Everton ended all hope of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy was not tested until the 13th minute when he put a drive from Welbeck behind for a corner.

The England international also saved well, late in the half, from a Valencia drive and the visitors could claim, with some justification, they were unfortunate not to be a goal up by that stage.

Robert Snodgrass's counter-attack ended with Jonny Howson bundling the ball over the line only for Probert to disallow the effort for a push by Ricky van Wolfswinkel on Jones.

Norwich, who ended the match just a point above the relegation zone, desperately needed to level at 1-1 if they were going to get anything out of this fixture.

However, only three minutes after the restart, they conceded to United and Rooney once more.

There seemed little danger when Shinji Kagawa pushed the ball wide to Rooney on the left wing but, with visiting defenders inexplicably backing away from the forward, he was able to carry the ball to a central position from which he curled past Ruddy from 20 yards, falling over as he did so.

Snodgrass's free-kick was then ably punched clear by David de Gea.

But that was brief respite for Norwich, who failed to chase down a loose ball and allowed Valencia to pass back to Jones whose low, dangerous centre was converted from six yards by United substitute Mata.

Mata was similarly positioned, six yards out, in the 73rd minute to stoop and head in a Valencia shot after the winger had connected with Patrice Evra's left-wing cross.

Johan Elmander shot just wide, Bradley Johnson was denied by De Gea and Martin Olsson struck the bar in a late, but futile, fightback from the visitors.

"I enjoyed it," Giggs told Sky Sports. "Four-nil is a dream day for us, I'm really pleased with the performance.

"I reminded the players the tempo needed to be quicker at half-time and they reacted well to that."

He added: "I didn't sleep last night. Leaving the likes of Juan Mata out of the starting XI was difficult and a position I've never been in before. I'm also one of their team-mates.

"You saw the reaction of Juan, he's a true pro."

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