MAN UTD 2, NORWICH 0
Goals from Anderson and Danny Welbeck finally broke a stubborn Norwich side which could have gone home celebrating after Anthony Pilkington spurned two gilt-edged chances to score at Old Trafford.
Many clubs will come to Old Trafford this season and hope to steal a point. After draws at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke City and at Old Trafford against Basel in the Champion League in the last week, there was much to consider for Paul Lambert who brought Norwich to Manchester hopeful of extending the minor blip.
Instead it was United who recorded a 19th straight league home win at Old Trafford setting a new club record and shaking off their recent shakiness with a gritty performance against a side which arrived on the back of two straight wins and hoping to frustrate United and possibly exploit their recent defensive uncertainty.
Sir Alex Ferguson opted for seven changes from the side which lost a 2-0 lead and had to rely on Ashley Young’s equaliser to earn a point against Basel in midweek. The home side’s defending was described as “careless” by the manager and the changes included Jonny Evans for Rio Ferdinand, Anders Lindegaard for David De Gea and Antonio Valencia deployed at right back instead of Fabio De Silva.
Ferguson had explained that he handed Lindegaard his Premier League debut due to the fact that he wasn’t going to get a game for Denmark during the international break whereas De Gea would get two matches for Spain under-21s.
He said: “Today’s performance was gritty and determined as we always are, but we never give in and that is why we remain undefeated at home,” said Ferguson.
“Norwich caused us a few problems from their counter attack play and there were few chances because they played so deep. I’ve seen that before many times and its very difficult to break down as it was today.”
Ryan Giggs and Welbeck were introduced shortly before Pilkington’s first scoring opportunity forced United to up their game.
Ferguson was surprised that Norwich had not taken the lead but was pleased to see that his team reacted to his tactical changes and earned the win.
“It was an incredible chance for Pilkington. Antonio dallied on the ball a bit and Pilkington knocked it wide when he should have hit the target,” he said.
“I felt we needed someone to change things. Chicarito wasn’t finding the spaces he can normally get into. Danny Welbeck came on and we improved a bit.”
Norwich had stuck to their task for over an hour, frustrating United’s every attack and presenting a threat on the break as Steve Morison ploughed a lone furrow againt Phil Jones and Evans.
The best chance of the first half saw Wayne Rooney meet Nani’s corner but his attempted header flicked off his shoulder and wide after 34 minutes.
Chances were few in the opening hour so it was important to make each one count and Pilkington was handed a golden chance to put Norwich into a second half lead after 67 minutes when he caughtmValencia on the ball, left him standing, and made space for himself only to fire his effort narrowly wide.
There is no room for error at Old Trafford, however, and Norwich were still digesting the missed chance when Anderson landed a sucker punch less than two minutes later after Giggs’ corner was flicked into the area by Jones and Rooney. The Brazilian was presented with an open goal and headed United into the lead.
The Canaries did their best to recover from the shock and Pilkington could have had an equaliser had his effort not deflected against the post off Anderson with 15 minutes to go.
The grateful Lindegaard collected the rebound and United went on to prise a deflated Norwich open with chances by Welbeck and Rooney before the former put the result beyond doubt three minutes from time.
Ji-Sung Park had drawn Norwich Keeper John Ruddy before unselfishly sidefooting the ball to Welbeck to clinch the win.