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Match Report: Norwich City 1-2 Manchester United (United Fan's Perspective)

Sunday 26th February 2012
Following the midweek loss to Ajax in the UEFA Europa League, Manchester United were once again in Barclays Premier League action with a potential banana skin trip to Carrow Road to face newly promoted Norwich City.

Norwich, in good form under Paul Lambert, have managed to establish themselves in the top half of the table making the pre-season target of Premier League survival almost assured. United on the other hand started the day 5 points behind leaders Manchester City and with the season reaching its busiest period, the Champions knew they could not afford a single slip up.

United were once again without Wayne Rooney, who was still suffering from a throat infection, but recalled Ryan Giggs to the starting lineup for his record 900th appearance for the club, an absolutely outstanding achievement for which all of the United supporters are grateful. Paul Scholes also returned to the starting lineup in the centre of midfield alongside Michael Carrick. Norwich striker Grant Holt led the line for the Canaries.

After the slow display midweek, a response was needed and delivered as United put considerable early pressure on Norwich with Nani and Phil Jones linking up well on the right hand side.

The breakthrough for United came as early as the 7th minute, when a wonderful Nani cross found Paul Scholes in space at the back post and the Ginger Prince nodded past John Ruddy in the Norwich goal to make it 1-0.

John Ruddy made a fantastic save in the 16th minute when a smart cut-back from Javier Hernandez found Danny Welbeck, whose fierce right-footed shot was parried wide. United seemingly then took their foot of the gas and nearly paid the ultimate price on the half hour mark, when a tidy lofted pass from Kyle Naughton found Anthony Pilkington in the box and forced a wonderful save from David De Gea's legs. This was a warning of things to come as Manchester United passed control of the fixture to Norwich, who up to this point had been very poor both in and out of possession of the ball.

Ruddy then made another smart save from Hernandez after a neat one-two move with Danny Welbeck with a potential forward partnership emerging. The 40th minute of play saw a glancing header from Grant Holt test De Gea but the Spaniard once again made a wonderful reflex save and managed to hold onto the ball to further silence his critics. This kept the score 1-0 to United at half time.

Norwich's introduction of Wes Hoolahan suggested Lambert was looking for a more attacking performance from his side in the second half however neither side was able to muster a considerable chance on goal. Welbeck looked the most likely to make something happen for the Red Devils but the majority of the game was being played in midfield. Welbeck had a chance to double United's lead in the 64th minute when a lovely chipped pass from Giggs found the striker in the penalty area, but he proceeded to lift the ball over the head of Ruddy only to see his effort cleared off the line by Zak Whitbread.

Elliot Bennett's 68th minute cross tested De Gea, with the young Spaniard acrobatically catching the ball. In the 72nd minute United hit the bar when another fantastic Jones cross found the Welsh veteran in space at the back post and a technically brilliant effort from Giggs struck the crossbar.

Into the last 10 minutes Aaron Wilbraham forced another world class save from De Gea after a misplaced Scholes pass. However just two minutes later Norwich were level through great individual work from Grant Holt, as the big centre forward swiveled and fired the ball into the United net.

United were facing being 4 points behind Manchester City at the top of the table with the title race swinging strongly to the Blue side of the city. The champions responded to giving away this goal by instantly turning up the tempo of their play, which begged the question why had they not done so earlier in the half to put the game to bed. They had a great chance to score in the 88th minute when a wonderfully chipped Giggs cross found an unmarked Welbeck, who couldn't reach the ball with his head.

In the first minute of three added on at the end of the match Ashley Young picked the ball up on the left hand side of the Norwich penalty area and delivered a cross of pinpoint precision to the back post. The cross found Ryan Giggs at the back post and the Welshman put the ball into the back of the net with a superbly controlled effort with the outside of his left foot.

A huge win for the Champions which saw them return to being just two points behind City.

Man of the match: David De Gea  The young goalkeeper has received a lot of criticism this season, considerable amounts of it being from his own supporters. However, De Gea put in a performance of real class and maturity at Carrow Road this afternoon making several top class saves and his ability in dealing with aerial crosses and set pieces was very impressive. Lets hope that this form continues into next weekends huge fixture away at Tottenham Hotspur.
Chris Winterburn

Total articles: 17

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