When Alex Ferguson retired, it was assumed that his famed 'selection tombola' would also be put out of service with him. The device formerly used to conjure up the seemingly random team selections at United would be obsolete, replaced by the famously analytical and pedantic David Moyes, and whoever he chose to be best for the job.
Yet in the midst of experimentation, the new boss seems to be much the same as the old. In his defence, he hasn't had 26 years to figure it out, but Moyes is quite clearly still unaware of how to best utilise the squad at Manchester United, as his recent experimentation (reluctance to keep Marouane Fellaini or Shinji Kagawa in the side, the introduction of Adnan Januzaj, the constant rotation of the backline) shows.
Another trait he seems to share with his predecessor is that the stranger the team, the more impressive the performance seems to be. The changes against Norwich were to be expected of course, since it was only the Carling Cup, but even by those standards it was a bizarre eleven. Most notably, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic both starting and completing 90 minutes suggests that their absence from United's first team has been no misfortune, and that they have instead been dropped.
The motivation behind that decision will surely be based on the idea to play a higher line, as well as Ferdinand's rotten start to the season. It makes sense, but despite a run in the team, Phil Jones' form has not improved, while Jonny Evans also looks rusty and Chris Smalling is the very antithesis of a right-back.
Cleverley and Jones looked like a disaster waiting to happen. Despite his errors in other positions usually being formed of a lack of awareness and concentration, which are far bigger problems for someone playing in the middle of the pitch, Jones was surprisingly the better of the two. In a very rare situation for United, Norwich could barely create a chance all game, hardly got out of their half and were duly played off the park. It is Norwich, but Old Trafford is also a ground that recently saw Stoke City turn up and dominate the game.
It showed that what United lack in midfield, rather than steel or creativity, is perhaps rather pace - which would also explain why Marouane Fellaini has failed to alleviate the problem despite his obvious talent. Jones may be clumsy, and Tom Cleverley's movement may resemble that of a bespectacled thirteen-year-old during a rainy P.E. lesson desperate to avoid the ball at all costs, but yesterday it worked.
Despite the lack of United's two supposed best ball-players, Michael Carrick and Shinji Kagawa, the team monopolised possession in a way they have been completely unable to with those two on the pitch, which could be interesting if Moyes is emboldened to attempt to put cup theory into league practice. Javier Hernandez, in the past two games, has probably done much to endear himself to Moyes too, while Januzaj continues to look like United's best player on current form.
All these considerations will serve United well for both the coming months and the January transfer window, when the dithering should at least not come on Moyes' part. The fabled 'run of winnable games' wasn't enough for United to steady the ship, but credit should go to Moyes for needing time because he chose to move on, rather than simply copy everything Ferguson did.