Alex Ferguson feels Manchester United must rediscover their urgency after losing 1-0 at Norwich with a lacklustre attacking display.
The Red Devils were usurped by rivals Manchester City at the top of the Barclays Premier League after the Citizens had earlier romped to a 5-0 home win over Aston Villa.
United never really got out of second gear in yesterday’s late afternoon televised clash against a well-organised Norwich side who are now unbeaten in five Premier League matches since the international break.
Ferguson had opted for Michael Carrick, on his 400th league appearance, and Ryan Giggs in central midfield, with Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young providing the width.
However, but for a missed kick by Robin van Persie after a beautiful ball into the Norwich box from Giggs and a close-range effort from Young which was well saved by John Ruddy, United created little of note in the first half.
Indeed, after falling behind to a well-taken header from Anthony Pilkington on the hour, the visitors failed to really stretch their hosts – even after the introduction of Paul Scholes and England forward Danny Wellbeck, who replaced the in-effective Javier Hernandez, given a chance as Wayne Rooney was not fit.
Ruddy tipped over a deflected header from Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong in stoppage-time, and then held onto Anderson’s low drive.
For Ferguson, though, it was too little too late.
“We were too long in delaying our crosses. We should have got the ball in earlier,” Ferguson said on MUTV.
“But we just didn’t get into the space behind them, it just didn’t happen for us.
“Norwich got plenty of men behind the ball and closed out all of the spaces and we just couldn’t get our crosses in.”
Despite the obvious disappointment of not being able to extend their five-match winning streak, Ferguson felt Norwich also deserved credit.
“There are times you have to recognise when your opponents have played beyond themselves,” he said.
“It was a game in which you have got to give Norwich lots of credit for working so hard. It was a really special effort.”
Anders Lindegaard had deputised for David de Gea in goal, after the Spaniard who was troubled by a wisdom tooth extraction, while Rooney was missing because of tonsillitis.
The forward sat out England’s midweek friendly in Sweden because of an ankle problem.
United’s medical team will now assess Rooney in the run-up to the Champions League Group H trip to Galatasaray.
Ferguson said: “We hope he will be in on Sunday – we will see what he is like then.
“If he does [come in] hopefully we can get him ready for Tuesday.”