Manchester United players celebrate Danny Welbeck’s goal, on Saturday. (Reuters)
London: Danny Welbeck’s opportunist second-half goal proved enough to give Manchester United a 1-0 win at Norwich City.
With England forward Wayne Rooney not travelling to Norfolk because of a groin problem and Robin van Persie still not match fit, United lacked a cutting edge in attack during a first half in which the Canaries were well on top.
However, following Welbeck’s introduction at the restart, United looked much more balanced going forward and got the crucial breakthrough in 57th minute when a clearance from Ryan Bennett bounced back off the England striker and on into the penalty area, where he rounded John Ruddy to slot home.
It was a sixth straight victory for David Moyes’ men who are now back within striking distance of EPL’s top four .
Despite all their changes from the 3-2 win at Hull on Boxing Day, with captain Nemanja Vidic back in defence and midfielder Michael Carrick starting his first match since mid-November, United had started brightly.
In the sixth minute, Ashley Young got away down the right and his cross found its way through to Shinji Kagawa at the far post. The Japan forward cut the ball back through the six-yard box, where Norwich goalkeeper Ruddy palmed it clear.
Norwich – with Irish playmaker Wes Hoolahan recalled to a five-man midfield in support of Gary Hooper – offered little attacking threat in the first quarter-of-an-hour as too many passes went astray.
Suddenly, though, the Canaries carved United open down the right as Robert Snodgrass played in Russell Martin.
The full back’s angled drive was palmed away by David de Gea and the loose ball was just out of reach for Hoolahan as it was bundled behind for a corner.
Hooper’s snapshot from six yards was then straight at De Gea as Norwich continued to press, with Snodgrass curling wide from the edge of the United area.
Norwich’s Sebastien Bassong also found the United goalkeeper with a close-range header before Hoolahan’s shot after a weaving run into the penalty area was blocked by Jonny Evans.