Juan Mata's winner keeps Man United in hunt for Champions League berth
Norwich City 0 1 Manchester United
Published 07/05/2016 | 15:14
Manchester United's bid for Champions League football remains alive after a 1-0 win at Carrow Road which saw Norwich slip closer to Premier League relegation.
Juan Mata punished Sebastien Bassong's error as United moved within one point of neighbours Manchester City, who play Arsenal on Sunday Norwich had 18 minutes to do what they had not managed to in their three previous games - score - but once more they failed to do so.
The Canaries' fate could be decided as soon as Wednesday, when they host Watford. Suddenly everything is looking more positive for Louis van Gaal.
The United manager, whose position has been under scrutiny for much of the season, could yet finish the season in the top four and by lifting the FA Cup.
Norwich won 2-1 at Old Trafford on December 19 and were aiming to inflict United's first home-and-away loss to a newly-promoted side in the Premier League era.
The hosts began with intent, a strong early spell coming between injury blows for the visitors. Anthony Martial was ruled out during the warm up and, after 16 minutes, Matteo Darmian departed on a stretcher with an apparent ankle injury.
The Canaries played at high intensity and with purpose. Robbie Brady ran by Carrick, with Mata trailing in his wake, but stumbled. Bassong had a shot blocked and then Nathan Redmond crossed for Cameron Jerome in the fourth minute.
That should have been 1-0, but the striker's header was straight at David de Gea. Jerome's most recent goal had been at Old Trafford and the subsequent 16-game scoreless streak has seen his confidence dwindle.
Any momentum Norwich had was lost after Darmian fouled Ivo Pinto, resulting in a pause for treatment. United were happy to let the Canaries have the ball and play on the break. From one Mata corner, Chris Smalling headed over.
Jerome encapsulated Norwich's lack of quality, repeatedly relinquishing possession. Bar the busy Wes Hoolahan, the hosts barely knew what to do.
Jerome made one surge down the right, skipped by Marcos Rojo only to limply fall following the effort of the run. The striker showed more intent in splitting up Rojo and Russell Martin after the Norwich skipper reacted to a swinging arm which made little or no connection as the pair grappled following a corner.
A Hoolahan cross was met by Dieumerci Mbokani, on for Brady, but the striker's header merely looped into the air and was claimed by De Gea.Norwich fared little better in the second half and the sense of inevitability was growing among home supporters who had seen it all before.
An Antonio Valencia ball down the right channel evaded Bassong, who committed to meeting it, and allowed Wayne Rooney in. Rooney, up front in place of Martial, could not find space to shoot but had the presence of mind to roll the ball to Mata to tuck in beyond John Ruddy.
Norwich's win over Newcastle on April 2 - a result which boosted their survival hopes - was the last time the Canaries had scored. Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Arsenal had kept cleansheets in the meantime and Norwich were unable to trouble United's bid for one.
It was United who finished looking most likely to score. Substitute Morgan Schneiderlin scuffed a shot wide across goal after a fine Rooney pass, Memphis Depay curled a free-kick just wide and Herrera blasted over.