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Sir Alex Ferguson gave Norwich City's defensive capabilities the thumbs-up on Saturday and was relieved to see his Manchester United side emerge with three points after they eventually broke down the Canaries' resistance. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images
Monday, October 3, 2011
Sir Alex Ferguson conceded the champions had to ride their luck against Norwich City during the second half at Old Trafford.
Ferguson’s men eventually prevailed but only after Anthony Pilkington and Steve Morison went close in a pulsating display from the Canaries.
Brazilian midfielder Anderson headed home Wayne Rooney’s flick in the final quarter before Danny Welbeck followed up his midweek Champions League brace with a close range tap in.
Pilkington had spurned a clear chance in a duel with Anders Lindegaard just two minutes before Anderson broke the deadlock – much to Ferguson’s relief.
“It was an incredible chance for them,” Ferguson told MUTV. “Antonio (Valencia) got caught dallying on the ball a bit and he has knocked it wide. You thought with that chance he’s got to hit the target so it was a break for us.
“I don’t expect Anderson to score with a header but you take a goal from anyone. Norwich still continued to have a go at us after that and it was quite an exciting game then. I felt we needed someone to get hold of the ball up front. Danny Welbeck did that – and he also got another goal. Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) in this particular game just didn’t have the spaces he normally gets. Danny came on and improved us a bit.”
United’s perseverance clinched a club record 19th consecutive home league win stretching back to West Brom’s battling point in October 2010.
“Our home record has been fantastic for two seasons now,” said Ferguson. “This was not a good performance but we were gritty and we never gave in.
“That is a fantastic quality to have. Only the draw against West Brom has spoiled it a bit. It would have been a really fantastic record otherwise.
“In the second half we improved but we still hardly made any chances in the game because they were so deep. They had everyone in the penalty box, two midfield players sat in front of the back four.
“I’ve seen that before many times and it’s very, very difficult to break down. We found that today. Norwich just stuck to their box and hit long balls and they got a few counter attacks out of that.”
Ferguson revealed Ashley Young was omitted from the squad as a precaution with an ankle problem suffered against Basel.
The former Aston Villa winger is expected to be fit for England’s upcoming Euro2012 qualifier against Montenegro. International considerations were also behind Ferguson’s decision to select Lindegaard in goal ahead of big money Spanish signing David De Gea.
“It was an opportunity to play Anders,” said Ferguson. “He is going away with Denmark this week but probably won’t play, whereas David is likely to play twice for Spain’s Under-21 team.
“Ashley has got an ankle knock. It wasn’t worth the risk with him but he should be okay for England and we have some big games coming up like Liverpool.”
United’s highly-rated defender Phil Jones is also likely to feature in Fabio Capello’s senior plans and the former Blackburn defender believes the Reds’ victory over the Canaries bore all the hallmarks of champions.
“It’s a big win for us,” he said. “As champions, football fans expect you to turn up and be the best every week but we know football isn’t like that and it was proved today.
“Norwich’s game plan worked well for them before we broke them down in the end. They made it difficult and we had to be patient, that’s what the manager said at half-time – move the ball quicker but be patient.
“They’re dangerous with a few good players up front who are sharp and lively.
“We had to watch out for that – perhaps I was needed too many times, when I wasn’t expected to be, but that’s what I’m there for.”