Norwich City brought back down to earth with a bump

Shinji Kagawa scores Manchester United's third goal to complete his hat trick. Picture: Paul Chester

Shinji Kagawa scores Manchester United's third goal to complete his hat trick. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City lost 4-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday. The Canaries defended stoutly in the first half and were unlucky to concede a goal in first half stoppage time, aka Fergie time (first half).

They held on to this scoreline until the 76th minute, when Kagawa added a second goal for the Reds. As Norwich tired, the Japanese completed his hat trick and Rooney added a fourth at the death. United therefore opened up a 15 point gap from their nearest pursuers at the top of the table, but the margin of victory flattered the Red Devils. City made one change to their line-up after last week’s home win against Everton. Pilkington replaced Becchio. Sir Alex Ferguson paid Norwich a compliment by putting out a strong team, including Van Persie, Vidic, and Rooney, but not Ferdinand nor Giggs, despite United’s impending Champions League tie with Real Madrid.

The opening exchanges were cagey; both sides created half chances. In the 15th minute Van Persie caught Bunn on the thigh as the two battled for the same ball but the City keeper was able to continue after treatment. United began to create the better chances as the half went on, and Vidic, Rooney, Carrick and Van Persie might have broken the deadlock. When the first goal did come, it was from a miss hit ball by Kagawa after Van Persie had passed on Valencia’s cross. That was on the stroke of half time, and the Canaries were entitled to feel disappointed that they had not been able to hold out until the break. Snodgrass was booked just after the goal had been scored.

Early in the second half there were chances for Snodgrass, Bassong and Howson. Garrido was booked for a foul on the dangerous Valencia. After 72 minutes Kamara replaced Hoolahan, but this time there was to be no fairy tale ending. Johnson became the third Canary to be booked and Elliott Bennett replaced Snodgrass. Martin somehow hooked the ball over the bar from Holt’s headed cross when it seemed easier to score – he was probably relieved to see that Holt had been penalised and that the goal would have been disallowed even if he had been on target. Kagawa’s second goal came after a good pass from Rooney on 76 minutes. Bunn saved well from Welbeck. Turner was booked.

Kagawa put the outcome beyond doubt with his hat trick goal after 87 minutes and Rooney scored the best goal of the game in the final minute after creating space for himself and firing over Bunn’s head. Becchio replaced Holt for the final seconds of the game.

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So City can hold their heads high and be satisfied with their first 75 minutes performance. They defended doggedly and were by no means disgraced. As Hughton said after the game, their fate will not be decided by the result at Old Trafford. The forthcoming home games against Southampton, Reading, Wigan, and Villa will however be crucial. A football team is only as good as its next game. Let us lick our wounds for now, and prepare for the first of these showdowns on Saturday, when Southampton are the visitors.

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