Manchester United 2-0 Norwich City

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Manchester United's Anderson
Anderson headed United into the lead just after the hour mark

Manchester United edged past Norwich to retain their position at the top of the Premier League.

Anderson headed in on 68 minutes before Danny Welbeck sealed the points after exchanging passes with Park Ji-sung.

The pattern of the game could have been different if Anthony Pilkington had taken one of two chances either side of United's opener.

But the Norwich winger shot wide when clean through and saw another effort hit the post on 75 minutes.

The hosts improved in the second period and could have extended their lead via Welbeck and Wayne Rooney, who returned to the United side after a hamstring injury.

However, they were made to work for the points on a glorious afternoon in Manchester, where the counter-attacking plans of Norwich boss Paul Lambert almost came to fruition.

Ferguson impressed by Norwich

Rooney clipped the bar when he was clean through late on, while Welbeck was inches from scoring before he settled nerves inside Old Trafford three minutes from time.

The relief inside the stadium was palpable as United sealed their 19th consecutive Premier League home win, especially as the visitors caused problems on the break from the beginning.

Early on, Elliott Bennett made good progress down the right but could not find an unmarked Steve Morison, while Wes Hoolahan tested the palms of Anders Lindegaard, who was making his first Premier League start.

But once Norwich had that brief attacking flurry, Sir Alex Ferguson's side were largely camped in their opponents' half as the Canaries concentrated on defensive duties.

United certainly had the majority of possession but they were pedestrian at times, with Darren Fletcher's flick from a corner the closest they came to scoring in the first half.

Ferguson made seven changes to the side from the 3-3 Champions League draw with Basel, in which he called his side's defending "careless", but after the early openings, they had little to defend against in the first half.

That changed early in the second period when Phil Jones made a great interception to stop Morison's cross reaching Hoolahan and Jonny Evans, in for Rio Ferdinand, took the sting out of Pilkington's effort.

Frustration began to grow within Old Trafford, not least when Pilkington was presented with the best chance of the game up to that point.

Bradley Johnson could not find his team-mate with a through ball but Antonio Valencia slipped, putting Pilkington clean through, only for the former Huddersfield man to shoot agonisingly wide.

Lambert and his backroom staff all had their heads in their hands and the Premier League newcomers were made to rue that chance minutes later.

Lambert delighted despite defeat

From substitute Ryan Giggs' corner Jones nodded onto Rooney, who directed it towards Anderson for a close-range header to give home supporters a huge release.

That almost turned to despair soon after when Pilkington's shot was deflected against the post by the Brazilian.

But with the game becoming more open, substitute Welbeck played in Park down the right, before receiving the return pass and sliding in for his fifth goal of the season.

United could have made it 3-0 with further chances, but Norwich's Andrew Crofts also had a shot saved and his side can come away from this encounter with some reason to feel hard done by.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: "They turned every counter attack into something positive, so that was a problem to deal with. But once we quickened the game up in the second half we were much better.

"We deserved to win because we had the most pressure and we tried to win the game as we always do. But even when it went to 1-0 they still had a go and opened up their game, and it became a very good game in the last 20 minutes."

Norwich boss Paul Lambert: "I thought we were excellent, we created chances as well, but one thing about coming to places like this is if you are creating chances you have to score.

"[Anthony Pilkington's chance] might have been the turning point but that is being harsh on him. That's not to blame Anthony for what happened at the other end, we got caught at a corner and against a quality team like that you get punished. But we played well."

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