Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Man United 2 Norwich 0

Perhaps the rest of the Premier League will not stand and watch Manchester’s relentless march to power. Perhaps the rest of the division will not acquiesce to fate, will not submit to the arms race between Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium, between United and City. First Stoke, now Norwich: the resistance has started.

That Paul Lambert’s team did not make this a third draw in the space of a week for Sir Alex Ferguson’s champions was down to their own profligacy. Anthony Pilkington might have had a hat-trick. He did not, his nerves betraying him. United were rather more ruthless. The hosts barely made a chance for 68 minutes. Anderson, though, kept his head when one arose. Danny Welbeck added gloss late on.

The cold, hard reality of the scoreboard and the history books will have this down as a United win, another United win, and one that kept Ferguson’s side top of the table, their dominion unharmed. In truth, though, it was a message: that Arsenal, Bolton and Chelsea may have been swept aside, but the rest of their opponents may not go so easily.

Ferguson has spent much of the week fretting over his defence, suggesting they have been both lax and careless this season, an attitude encouraged by his attack’s potency. Even upfront, though, he will now have scant solace.

Norwich, for 68 minutes, kept Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez – so feted that much of the discussion before kick off was how many they would score, rather than whether they would manage a goal at all – at arm’s length. They did so with sufficient ease to concern the United manager.

Indeed, so blanket was the coverage, so steely the determination, that John Ruddy scarcely had a save to make. Marc Tierney, outstanding, smothered Nani after Rooney’s cut-back, and cleared an improvised Darren Fletcher effort from a corner off the line. Russell Martin, equally outstanding, denied Nani again as he danced through. That was the sum total of United’s output for the first half.

Lambert, crouched on his haunches in his technical area like a Paisley Andre Villas-Boas, would have been rightly delighted as he stalked inside for the interval. Ferguson’s words would have been rather more heated, enquiring why his side were doing so much to make Norwich’s supporters’ songs seem disingenuous.

They had, the away end insisted, only come to Old Trafford to pick up their scarves – a reference to the green and gold campaign to oust United’s unpopular owners, the Glazers, so effectively doused by Ferguson’s success. Nonsense. Lambert had come for a point. Maybe more.

Who knows how much booty he might have plundered had Steve Morison squared for Wes Hoolahan after scuffling past Jonny Evans after the break. Or had the Northern Irishman not deflected Pilkington’s shot straight into the arms of Anders Lindegaard a moment later, as United’s defence – still lax, still careless – melted away. Or if the former Stockport winger had not placed his effort wide after robbing Antonio Valencia.

That, perhaps, remains the difference between the Premier League’s superpowers and their satellite states: a cut-throat efficiency. United had produced precious little – a Rooney penalty claim, an effort wide from Nani, when Ryan Giggs lofted a deep corner to Phil Jones, his header was headed on by Rooney and there was Anderson, directing an effort past Ruddy.

Norwich did not despair. Pilkington saw another shot deflected on to the post, this time by Anderson, the ball bouncing agonisingly behind Lindegaard and into his grateful arms.

Only with their visitors chasing the game, swarming forward, did United create chances. Jones’s cross flashed in front of Welbeck’s eyes, Rooney shot wide; then, finally, Old Trafford breathed again, as Welbeck tapped in Park Ji-Sung’s low cross. Norwich were beaten, at last, but at no point did their resistance crumble. The rest of the Premier League may choose to follow their example.

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