[Premier League] Manchester United 2-0 Norwich City
Man Utd : Anderson (68), Danny Welbeck (87)
It may be October but this was a taxing work-out in the sweltering sunshine for the champions. Anderson and Danny Welbeck finally broke down Norwich's spirited resistance and there were a couple of scares at the other end as the Canaries will feel luck deserted them at key moments.
Anderson's header broke the deadlock on 68 minutes, to the home fans' relief, and substitute Danny Welbeck clinched the three points with his third goal of the week at Old Trafford.
United looked flat in the first half and struggled to make any superiority count against hard-working and well-drilled opponents.
Although Wayne Rooney had an early shot straight at John Ruddy, it was City who started to make the running and create goalscoring opportunities. Anders Lindegaard, starting ahead of David De Gea, allowed Bradley Johnson a sight of goal when he sent a clearance straight to the former Leeds midfielder but, to the Reds keeper's relief, the shot was weak.
Only a vital clearance from Phil Jones snuffed out the danger sparked by a run from Elliott Bennett down the right and Wes Hoolahan also managed a couple of efforts from outside the box.
After Javier Hernandez was blocked by Marc Tierney when trying to reach a Rooney cross, the Canaries again showed they were not going to be overawed when Steve Morison beat Jonny Evans with his chest control and pulled his finish wide.
Gradually, following the half-hour mark, United started to ask more questions of the yellow shirts at the back and Tierney volleyed away when Darren Fletcher flicked a Nani corner goalwards. Rooney climbed well to divert another Nani corner off target and drove well wide after fighting tenaciously to win possession outside the area.
With the game starting to heat up, Johnson went unpunished when kicking out at a grounded Hernandez in full view of referee Stuart Atwell and Norwich showed their annoyance when United later failed to return the ball to them as Nani was left on the turf. It was Nani who had the final attempt of the half, a shot well wide with his left foot, but it was largely a 45 minutes to forget for the champions.
The Reds carried more threat at the start of period but Anderson could only shoot wide after getting the ball onto his left foot from Rooney's cute pass. But the match became stretched and only a superb tackle by Jones kept out Morison before a three-on-two situation saw Lindegaard palm away a deflected shot by Anthony Pilkington.
With Ji-sung Park and Hoolahan trading off-target shots, there was a golden opportunity for the team in yellow on 65 minutes. Antonio Valencia's mistake let in Pilkington but, with only Lindegaard to beat, he placed his shot just wide. Making the most of the let-off, United went in front three minutes later. Giggs, part of a double substitution with Welbeck, took a corner from the left that was headed by Jones and Rooney for Anderson to nod past John Ruddy.
Despite the breakthrough, this was clearly not going to be a comfortable afternoon for the Reds. Pilkington again caused panic in the United box when his left-footed shot deflected off Anderson's shoulder and rebounded into the grateful arms of Lindegaard via the right-hand upright.
Rooney began to exert more influence, however, and after finding Jones, the defender's cross was inches away from being converted by Welbeck in the middle. Rooney then went for goal himself with a great piece of skill followed by a finish that drifted wide of the far post.
Andrew Crofts worked Lindegaard as the game entered the final 10 minutes with the outcome still very much in doubt. Indeed, Morison battled his way past Patrice Evra to force an important block by substitute Rio Ferdinand, who came on to help keep things tight at the back.
It needed another goal to make the points safe and Welbeck duly provided it with three minutes left. The England international played in Park and met his unselfish return with a close-range finish past Ruddy to finally provide some breathing space.
Simeon Jackson shot wide with his left foot as City refused to accept their fate but Rooney really should've maintained his record of scoring in every Barclays Premier League game he's played in this term when lofting his chip inches too high when presented with a one-on-one opportunity against Ruddy.
A clean sheet for the Dane on his Barclays Premier League debut. In truth, he didn't have to make too many saves but was comfortably after slipping and guiding a clearance to Bradley Johnson in the first half. Made a vital save when an Anthony Pilkington shot deflected off Jonny Evans but was fortunate when the same player hit a post.
Looks happier going forward than defending but continues to do a shift at right-back. As he pushed up more in the second half, one error let in Pilkington for a glorious chance but the winger shot wide. Showed he'd recovered from that mistake with a great burst of speed to quell another attack and moved into his more familiar role when Rio Ferdinand was introduced.
A firm favourite with the fans and a saviour in defence on a couple of occasions. Made a vital interception after Elliott Bennett escaped down the right in the first half and won a couple of key battles with Steve Morison. A brilliant tackle on the Welsh striker denied what looked a certain goal and he showed his versatility again by moving to right-back late on.
Allowed Morison to beat him on a couple of occasions, once when Jones bailed him out, but otherwise this was another solid display from the fit-again defender. An early calm-headed interception showed he was quickly back in the groove and he made a Patrice Evra: The captain was up and down the left flank as usual without having any major impact on proceedings. Morison bulldozed his way past him to create one chance that Ferdinand needed to nudge behind and he was kept on his toes by the lively Bennett for much of the afternoon.
Struggled to get too much change out of Marc Tierney and his crossing wasn't up to the exceptional standards he showed against Basel. Nevertheless, he looked a threat and had one left-foot shot wide just before the break. Moved to the left flank in bid to make the breakthrough, he was replaced by Ryan Giggs in the second period.
Tried to bring an air of composure to midfield but it was difficult against opponents who were harrying and closing down in the manner he has done so well in his United career. One lovely ball wide to Ji-sung Park was his best moment, perhaps, but this was a hard shift in the sunshine for the Scot.
Like Fletcher, his usual crisp passing deserted him early on but he knuckled down and worked to force himself into the match. Getting forward to good effect, he sent a deflected shot wide and should've done better when working a Rooney pass onto his left foot and firing wide. When it mattered most, though, he showed a perfect finishing touch when expertly heading past John Ruddy for the opener.
Became more of an influence in the second half after struggling to impose himself during a difficult first 45 minutes for the team. Might have had a goal when his shot from a Leon Barnett clearance was deflected to safety and he started to revel in the open spaces that started to appear as the Canaries inevitably tired. Showed a cool head to unselfishly tee up Danny Welbeck for the clincher.
Always probing, particularly with his favourite pass - sweeping the ball wide to the right flank. He climbed to head over a Nani corner and drove wide after fighting for possession but it was looking increasingly like a frustrating afternoon for the striker. In the closing stages, he tried another of his preferred skills - a drifting, chipped finish - once wrongly when only finding Ruddy but then going so close to maintaining his scoring run in the league as it flew inches too high.
Caught offside on too many occasions and struggled to provide any decent noteworthy moments in front of goal. A despairing tackle by Tierney blocked his shot after linking up well with Rooney but the organised defence snuffed out much of his threat before he was substituted.
Danny Welbeck (for Hernandez 64)
It's hard to ignore the local lad. Adding a lively new dimension to the attack, he was close to converting a Jones centre before getting on the scoresheet again with a cool finish in the 87th minute. An England call-up for the trip to Montenegro is surely assured.
Ryan Giggs (for Nani 64)
Oozes class and provided the guile and vision that was lacking at times on an awkward afternoon for the champions. Makes everything look so easy and he is so appreciative of what is happening around him. It was his corner that led to the opening goal.
Rio Ferdinand (for Anderson 76)
Justified the decision to bring him on to keep things tight in defence, a testament to the performance of the Canaries, with an important block as Morison threatened with the lead a slender one.