Norwich City 0, Manchester United 1
Cristiano Ronaldo hit the winner for Manchester United at Norwich City but the Reds were indebted to David De Gea again for saving the win.Embed from Getty Images
It was a case of gritty performance but no end result again for Norwich as United were well below their best but managed to grab a late winner from the penalty spot to leave their hosts empty handed as De Gea saved twice from Ozan Kabak and also denied Teemu Pukki to record a 200th career clean sheet.
The win was punctuated by a potential health issue for Victor Lindelof who immediately went off after pointing to his chest in an off the ball incident without any players near him but the defensive change didn’t affect the result.
It was United’s first consecutive clean sheets since March and United boss Ralf Rangnick became the second Reds manager to register a clean sheet in each of his first two league games in charge after Ernest Mangnall in 1903.
Despite an under par performance from the Reds – who had a heavy work load on the training pitch recently – the result moved United back up to 5th as Norwich recorded a 10th Premier League defeat after just 16 rounds.
United boss Ralf Rangnick returned to the side that won 3-2 at Old Trafford against Arsenal after the midweek change side he named drew 1-1 against Young Boys in the Champions League.
Their hosts had a number of injuries and COVID-related absences and had got off to a poor start when they lost their highly experienced captain Grant Hanley to injury after just 21 minutes but his deputy Jacob Sorensen picked up the baton and helped Norwich regain their composure.
Poor finishing let down the Canaries against a tired looking United side who might have suffered against a side who could take their chances.
United had their own chances to score through Alex Telles’ free kick deflected onto the bar, Ronaldo couldn’t create space for a shot past four Norwich defenders, and a looping header from Harry Maguire was tipped over the bar by Tim Krul.
Norwich City pay for poor finishing after David de Gea ensures that Cristiano Ronaldo penalty is the winner
It was De Gea’s turn to be busy after the break after United’s first half sloppiness contributed to a lack of goals for them.
Przemyslaw Placheta had a shot on goal while Teemu Pukki’s rising shot was tipped over the bar by the Spanish goalkeeper.
Marcus Rashford was denied by a superb challenge from ex-Liverpool defender Kabak who dispossessed him with an inch perfect tackle inside the area.
Jadon Sancho was replaced by Mason Greenwood after 67 minutes but there was concern on the United bench when Victor Lindelof went down indicating a problem with his chest and breathing difficulties – he went off immediately.
Finally, United earned a penalty when Max Aarons appeared to haul down Ronaldo as both went for a ball into the box – a naive piece of defending which would ultimately cost Dean Smith’s side the points.
Ronaldo stepped up and Krul couldn’t stop the powerful spot kick as United’s talismanic striker sent him the wrong way – smashing the ball into the bottom left corner.
Kabak thought he had quickly equalised after heading the ball goalwards but was thwarted by the outstretched hand of De Gea.
Billy Gilmour’s shot was deflected off Eric Bailly, on for Lindelof, for a corner.
Ronaldo blazed over from six yards after Rashford slipped in a square ball slightly behind him.
And Norwich thought thay had got an equaliser through Kabak but De Gea clawed the ball away from him again after he got on the end of Gilmour’s injury time free kick.
MATCH STATS – Norwich City 0, Manchester United 1
Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Hanley (Sorensen 21), Kabak, Giannoulis, Rupp (Lees-Melou 76), Gilmour, McLean, Placheta (Cantwell 70), Pukki, Sargent
Norwich City subs not used: Gunn, Byram, Dowell, Mumba, Idah, Tomkinson
Man Utd: De Gea, Dalot, Lindelof (Bailly 76), Maguire, Telles, McTominay, Fred, Sancho (Greenwood 67), Fernandes (van de Beek 88), Ronaldo, Rashford
Man Utd subs not used: Henderson, Heaton, Jones, Lingard, Shaw, Elanga
Booked: Dalot, van de Beek
Goal: Ronaldo 75 pen
Referee: Darren England