, Sports Writer
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Second-half goals from Anderson and substitute Danny Welbeck gave Premier League leaders Manchester United a record-breaking victory over the Canaries at Old Trafford.
But the scoreline flattered the reigning champions, for Paul Lambert’s team will wonder how they failed to take at least a point from another fearless performance in front of a crowd of more than 75,000.
City were guilty of missing a succession of gilt-edged opportunities in the second half, with Anthony Pilkington and Steve Morison squandering the best of them, while Pilkington had another effort blocked and another deflected on to the woodwork.
Anderson headed United in front in the 68th minute after substitute Ryan Giggs’ corner was nodded on by Phil Jones and Wayne Rooney.
That goal came moments after Pilkington should have given City the lead, and after Pilkington and Morison had both had chances to level, Welbeck wrapped up the points three minutes from time, and with it a club record 19th successive home league win.
It was tough on the Canaries – but another lesson in taking your chances at the highest level.
City boss Lambert named an unchanged starting eleven after the 2-1 home win over Sunderland, but there were two enforced changes on the bench.
With on-loan centre-back Ritchie de Laet ineligible to play against his parent club, Adam Drury was the one defender named among the substitutes, while striker Simeon Jackson returned to the squad in place of James Vaughan, who had an operation in midweek after suffering a knee injury that looks set to sideline him until the spring.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson welcomed back striker Wayne Rooney in attack after hamstring trouble, while fit-again defender Jonny Evans replaced Rio Ferdinand in the back four, and there was a surprise omission in England winger Ashley Young, who was not in the 18, with Ji-Sung Park winning a recall. In addition, Anders Lindegaard was preferred in goal to David De Gea.
Before kick-off, in hot conditions more suited to the summer game, Lancashire cricketers did a lap of honour, parading their County Championship trophy.
Both sides were given a great reception, with City’s 3,000 travelling fans in good voice in one corner of the stadium.
United had the first shot on goal after two minutes when Jones set up Rooney, but his effort lacked power and Ruddy was safely behind it.
City made an encouraging break on the left, Pilkington crossing into the box, but Morison was just unable to get in a clean header thanks to the attention of Evans.
There was a clear opportunity in only the fifth minute when Hoolahan found Bennett in space on the right but the winger hesitated and picked the wrong option with a cross to the near post that Jones cut out at the expense of the corner. The kick was quickly taken and Hoolahan curled in a shot that Lindegaard was right behind.
It was a bright start by the Canaries and when Ruddy’s drop-kick was knocked on, Hoolahan hoisted a half-volley into the crowd.
Nani flashed a shot wide in the 10th minute as United replied, and they forced their first corner when the same player’s cross was headed behind, Johnson heading clear from Nani’s kick. Anderson had a shot blocked as the hosts continued to press.
A mistake by Russell Martin gave United an opening as Rooney produced a cross from the right, with Hernandez on the end of it on the edge of the six-yard box, but Barnett making a vital block.
City hit back and Tierney’s long ball forward then found Morison, who brought it down well but fired his left-foot shot across the face of the goal.
Nani found room to curl in another cross from the right but Ruddy was out to claim it and, with 20 minutes gone, the Canaries certainly did not look overawed by the occasion.
Morison was working his socks off in attack and pursued an excellent ball from Fox, but was just dispossessed by Evans on the edge of the United area as he tried to home in on goal.
United tried to exert more pressure but had so far found City in unco-operative mood and both Russell Martin and Barnett made important interceptions in their own penalty area to break up attacks.
The hosts won another corner, Fletcher’s backheel from Nani’s kick being cleared by Tierney on the near post.
Pilkington sent an ambitious effort high into the crowd as City broke, but United were having more of the play at this stage and Rooney might have done better than head over the bar from another Nani corner.
The game had been played in good spirit, though there was a momentary squabble as Hernandez and Johnson tangled after the City man dispossessed the striker.
Rooney fired wide from long range and as United started to show their frustration, Nani made a meal of a challenge by Tierney but referee Atwell was unimpressed.
Back on his feet, Nani played a neat one-two with Hernandez in the Norwich area but was stopped by a splendid tackle by Russell Martin.
Nani’s antics were beginning to annoy the official, who stopped play to lecture him after he disputed an offside decision against Hernandez.
On the stroke of half-time, Nani shot wide from 20 yards, and another offside flag against Hernandez brought the half to a close.
• Half-time: Manchester United 0, Norwich City 0
Johnson was caught by a foul by Nani soon after the restart but was able to carry on and, as United pressed, Anderson should have done better than pull a weak shot across goal from Rooney’s pass.
Tierney needed attention after landing awkwardly on his left ankle as he headed clear from a cross by Nani, now operating on the left.
There was a real opening for City six minutes after the break, though, as Morison broke on the right and got the better of Evans but with Hoolahan waiting in the six-yard box, he delayed long enough for Jones to get back and make a fine tackle.
The Canaries had another excellent opportunity in their next attack when Johnson found Pilkington overlapping on the left and he cut inside Jones on to this right foot, but his shot looped up off Evans and Lindegaard was able to parry it upwards, where Evra nodded it back into his hands.
Stung by that double escape, United pushed on and Park let fly with a shot that was deflected wide off Russell Martin.
With 62 minutes gone, Naughton did superbly to rob Rooney and set Hoolahan racing forward, where the skipper let fly with a 25-yard drive that just cleared the bar.
United made a double change with Giggs and Welbeck replacing Nani and Hernandez, but City really should have taken the lead on 65 minutes when Pilkington missed a golden chance.
Johnson’s pass put him through on the left and as Valencia stumbled, Pilkington was clean through, but pushed his shot the wrong side of the post as Lindegaard came out. The reaction of Pilkington, Lambert and the City bench said it all.
The Canaries were made to pay almost immediately when Anderson gave United the lead.
Giggs’ corner from the left was nodded back by Jones and onwards by Rooney and Anderson popped up to head the opening goal.
Substitute Welbeck earned the first yellow card of the afternoon when he caught Tierney with a high challenge.
There was a double change for the Canaries after 74 minutes when Fox and Bennett made way for Crofts and Jackson.
Immediately there was another remarkable escape for United when another Pilkington shot was deflected off Anderson on to the woodwork and out.
Still City threatened and United had to clear as Morison nodded back Tierney’s cross.
Rooney could have increased United’s lead when Giggs picked him out with a splendid crossfield ball and he sidestepped Russell Martin before shooting inches wide.
Substitute Crofts carved enough space to strike a left-footer from 20 yards but Lindegaard was in the right place.
With six minutes to go, Morison missed another golden opportunity as he played a one-two with Jackson, but with just the keeper to beat he miscued and his bobbling effort was cleared.
Barnett headed over from the resulting corner and, after Chris Martin had replaced Hoolahan, substitute Welbeck wrapped the game up for United.
Welbeck played a one-two with Park and rolled in a simple goal – but how the Canaries must have rued those missed chances.
Jackson shot a couple of yards wide with two minutes to go, but by now it was too late for City to salvage anything.
Rooney chipped an effort over the bar in stoppage time after a rare slip by Naughton.
• Manchester United: Lindegaard; Valencia, Jones, Evans, Evra; Nani (Giggs, 64), Fletcher, Anderson (Ferdinand, 76), Park; Rooney, Hernandez (Welbeck, 64). Subs (not used): De Gea, Carrick, Owen, Barbatov.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Naughton, Barnett, Russell Martin, Tierney; Bennett (Jackson, 74), Fox (Crofts, 74), Bradley Johnson, Pilkington; Hoolahan (Chris Martin, 85); Morison. Subs (not used): Rudd, Drury, Surman, Holt.
• Referee: Stuart Atwell (Warwickshire)
• Attendance: 75,514
• Goals: Man Utd: Anderson (68), Welbeck (87)
• Bookings: Man Utd: Welbeck (71)