Thursday 12 December 2013
Mark Hughes scored in the 59th minute to inflict Norwich City's fourth defeat of the season and reduce the Canaries' lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to five points.
Hughes volleyed home from six yards following a cross from Lee Sharpe to secure Man Utd's fourth successive victory, which moved them up four places into third.
There were few chances in the first half with all the meaningful action squeezed into the final three minutes.
Former Man Utd striker Mark Robins, who signed for Norwich in August, almost scored his 13th goal of the season in his 20th match when a rebound fell to him on the edge of the area - but his shot was deflected over the top by the outstretched leg of Peter Schmeichel.
Hughes then came close from a tight angle before a shot from Eric Cantona, in his first start for the Red Devils, hit the body of Norwich keeper Bryan Gunn.
After Hughes' goal, Cantona and Ryan Giggs combined well a couple of times and United were only denied a second following good work by Norwich defender Ian Culverhouse.
Man Utd manager Alex Ferguson said: "Eric showed today that he is a Manchester United player. Some of his touches were superb, very special. But what he added most of all was his vision. I enjoyed the way we played today."
Norwich boss Mike Walker added: "The goal summed up the match for us - scruffy and unlucky. We didn’t perform - it was probably our worst match of the season."
The result proved to be a turning point after the Canaries' remarkable start to the inaugural Barclays Premier League season. Walker’s side missed out on becoming the competition's first champions but did finish in third - their best-ever top flight placing.
They were two points behind second-placed Aston Villa and 12 adrift of champions Manchester United, who won their first league title under the management of Ferguson.