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Norwich City continued their revival with a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Carrow Road, as Sir Alex Ferguson's team failed to go back top of the Barclays Premier League. After Manchester City had thrashed Aston Villa 5-0 this afternoon, only a win would have been enough for United to jump over their neighbours. However, with England striker Wayne Rooney missing because of tonsillitis, United went down to the Canaries who secured a third win in five Premier League games with a header from Anthony Pilkington, a former United trainee, on the hour.
Robin van Persie had recovered from the thigh strain which kept him out of Holland's midweek friendly with Germany, while Javier Hernandez also started for the visitors after his match-winning cameo at Aston Villa last weekend. Anders Lindegaard kicked off in goal for David de Gea, who was troubled by a wisdom tooth.
It was a lively start by United as Van Persie created the first opening inside three minutes, turning to drive in a low shot from the edge of the Norwich penalty area which John Ruddy palmed away low to his right. Norwich were defending with two banks of four, but also looked to use wingers Robert Snodgrass and Pilkington on the counter. On six minutes, Wes Hoolahan fed Pilkington down the left after a quick break from a United corner, but the former Huddersfield Town man lacked support and could only flash a drive wide across goal from 20 yards.
United continued to have all the possession, and enjoy plenty of time on the ball as the home side sat deep. On 21 minutes, full-back Patrice Evra was inches away from connecting with Ashley Young's left-wing corner after arriving at pace to the far post. Norwich showed life in attack when Hoolahan floated a ball over from the left, which Snodgrass diverted just over the angle with a backward header. A sweeping move switched play from the right out to Pilkington, who released left-back Javier Garrido, and his low centre flashed across the face of Lindegaard's goal.
Norwich continued to grow in confidence and it needed a brilliant saving tackle from Chris Smalling to prevent captain Grant Holt from tapping in Snodgrass' low cross after the Scotland winger got past Rio Ferdinand into the right side of the United penalty area on 37 minutes. Ryan Giggs, who scored a last-minute winner here last season on his 900th appearance, floated in a lovely ball behind the Norwich backline, but Van Persie missed his kick when attempting an acrobatic volley. Young then drilled in a low effort at the back post from a corner, which Ruddy turned behind from point-blank range.
United opened the second half as they had the first, with Van Persie again losing his footing when played into a promising position inside the Norwich box. After Snodgrass had been pushed over by Evra out on the right, his deep free-kick flew through the United penalty area before it was hacked off the line by Rafael Da Silva. Norwich continued to press and were rewarded on the hour. Garrido was played in on the overlap down the left by Hoolahan, and his perfectly weighed cross was glanced over Lindegaard into the top corner by Pilkington, who was once a player in the United youth system.
Within 10 minutes of the goal Paul Scholes, who turned 38 yesterday, and England striker Danny Welbeck were off the bench, replacing Antonio Valencia and Hernandez. United upped the tempo, as Welbeck's looping header was deflected behind for a corner. It continued to be one-way traffic as the Canaries defended resolutely. With seven minutes left, Norwich boss Chris Hughton made a double change as Steve Morison and Jonny Howson replaced Holt and Hoolahan. Ferdinand, meanwhile, came off for Anderson.
With a minute left, Wales forward Morison released Howson clear on goal, but the former Leeds midfielder scuffed his shot wide. There were four minutes of stoppage time and Ruddy produced a save to turn the ball over from Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong’s header. At the final whistle, Carrow Road erupted as United went the same way as Arsenal had done four weeks ago.
Norwich City manager Chris Hughton: "It is [Norwich’s best win of the season], simply because it is Manchester United. They tested us more than anybody we have played against and were resilient enough.
"I suppose with the run we are on, the confidence we have from that we were able to show. It is certainly a wonderful achievement."
"It is a great feeling tonight because it is Manchester United, but it is still about three points. We had a few good performances at the start of the season where we did not get the points from our performances, so it was so vital we can pick up points.
"We have proved we can do, but we have to play our game at that level, because if we fall below that, then we can get beat. If we do that, it will give us a chance."
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "Norwich deserved their win because they worked so hard for it, although we had a lot of possession and one or two half chances. We didn't create enough great chances. It just wasn't our night.
"Their goal was a marvellous cross and a great touch for the header. There was nothing our keeper could do about that. So you have to give credit to Norwich because they battled well, and their goalkeeper had a good night as well, so it is disappointing.
"You always feel that we can do that [come from behind to win] because the history of the club is like that - players have gotten used to making comebacks and we are always a threat in the last few minutes of matches.
"We were tonight in some respects, but they defended really well and the goalkeeper made some saves at vital moments. You always miss your good players, but we had plenty of good players on the pitch tonight."
|24 Nov 2012||v Everton (A)|
|28 Nov 2012||v Southampton (A)|
|02 Dec 2012||v Sunderland (H)|
|08 Dec 2012||v Swansea (A)|
|15 Dec 2012||v Wigan (H)|
|22 Dec 2012||v West Brom (A)|