It may be October but this was a taxing work-out in the sweltering sunshine for the champions. Anderson and Danny Welbeck finally broke down Norwich’s spirited resistance and there were a couple of scares at the other end as the Canaries will feel luck deserted them at key moments.
Anderson’s header broke the deadlock on 68 minutes, to the home fans’ relief, and substitute Danny Welbeck clinched the three points with his third goal of the week at Old Trafford.
United looked flat in the first half and struggled to make any superiority count against hard-working and well-drilled opponents.
Although Wayne Rooney had an early shot straight at John Ruddy, it was City who started to make the running and create goalscoring opportunities. Anders Lindegaard, starting ahead of David De Gea, allowed Bradley Johnson a sight of goal when he sent a clearance straight to the former Leeds midfielder but, to the Reds keeper’s relief, the shot was weak.
Only a vital clearance from Phil Jones snuffed out the danger sparked by a run from Elliott Bennett down the right and Wes Hoolahan also managed a couple of efforts from outside the box.
After Javier Hernandez was blocked by Marc Tierney when trying to reach a Rooney cross, the Canaries again showed they were not going to be overawed when Steve Morison beat Jonny Evans with his chest control and pulled his finish wide.
Gradually, following the half-hour mark, United started to ask more questions of the yellow shirts at the back and Tierney volleyed away when Darren Fletcher flicked a Nani corner goalwards. Rooney climbed well to divert another Nani corner off target and drove well wide after fighting tenaciously to win possession outside the area.
With the game starting to heat up, Johnson went unpunished when kicking out at a grounded Hernandez in full view of referee Stuart Atwell and Norwich showed their annoyance when United later failed to return the ball to them as Nani was left on the turf. It was Nani who had the final attempt of the half, a shot well wide with his left foot, but it was largely a 45 minutes to forget for the champions.
The Reds carried more threat at the start of period but Anderson could only shoot wide after getting the ball onto his left foot from Rooney’s cute pass. But the match became stretched and only a superb tackle by Jones kept out Morison before a three-on-two situation saw Lindegaard palm away a deflected shot by Anthony Pilkington.
With Ji-sung Park and Hoolahan trading off-target shots, there was a golden opportunity for the team in yellow on 65 minutes. Antonio Valencia’s mistake let in Pilkington but, with only Lindegaard to beat, he placed his shot just wide. Making the most of the let-off, United went in front three minutes later. Giggs, part of a double substitution with Welbeck, took a corner from the left that was headed by Jones and Rooney for Anderson to nod past John Ruddy.
Despite the breakthrough, this was clearly not going to be a comfortable afternoon for the Reds. Pilkington again caused panic in the United box when his left-footed shot deflected off Anderson’s shoulder and rebounded into the grateful arms of Lindegaard via the right-hand upright.
Rooney began to exert more influence, however, and after finding Jones, the defender’s cross was inches away from being converted by Welbeck in the middle. Rooney then went for goal himself with a great piece of skill followed by a finish that drifted wide of the far post.
Andrew Crofts worked Lindegaard as the game entered the final 10 minutes with the outcome still very much in doubt. Indeed, Morison battled his way past Patrice Evra to force an important block by substitute Rio Ferdinand, who came on to help keep things tight at the back.
It needed another goal to make the points safe and Welbeck duly provided it with three minutes left. The England international played in Park and met his unselfish return with a close-range finish past Ruddy to finally provide some breathing space.
Simeon Jackson shot wide with his left foot as City refused to accept their fate but Rooney really should’ve maintained his record of scoring in every Barclays Premier League game he’s played in this term when lofting his chip inches too high when presented with a one-on-one opportunity against Ruddy.
Glory Glory ManUnited!