Following United’s disappointing defeat at home against Ajax in the Europa league, the reds travelled to Carrow Road to face premier league new boys Norwich City. Having struggled to beat Norwich earlier in the season at Old Trafford, and with City extending their lead at the top of the table to 5 points, it was likely to be a tough outing for United who put the best premier league away record on the line. Having opted for youth during the week, experience was the order of the day for Fergie, with Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand and Michael Carrick all returning to the line up.
With Wayne Rooney absent with an apparent throat virus, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez were charged with leading the line and providing the goals to fire United back to within two points of the lead. The two almost combined to deadly effect within the opening minutes, but it was the 38 year old Scholes who showed them how it was done on 7 minutes, starting the move with a lovely ball out to Nani, then showing the killer instinct by latching onto the Portuguese’ cross to nod United into the lead. With Norwich failing to start the game well, the reds looked to capitalise, and were unlucky to find Norwich keeper John Ruddy in fine form, thwarting Danny Welbeck with a diving save after a smart cut back from Hernandez.
Having started brightly however, United failed to fully press home the initiative, as the home side began to find some more encouragement to force their way back into the match. They too however found an inspired keeper in the opposing goal, as David De Gea firstly saved smartly with his feet from Pilkington, before unbelievably holding onto Holt’s flick on from no more than 5 yards out, preserving United’s slender lead at half time.
Having ridden their luck in the first half, United had the chances to bury the game in the second as the champions began to finally show why they were exactly that. Welbeck was unlucky to see his lob cleared off the line after a delightful interchange with Giggs on the edge of the box released the England striker. Giggs himself was guilty of squandering a glorious chance, on what was a landmark 900th appearance for the club, as he somehow diverted Jones’ cross onto the bar, setting up a tense finale for the reds. On 83 minutes, disaster struck, as Whitbread’s flick on found its way to Grant Holt, who used his strength well and fired a left footed shot into the top corner, leaving United merely 7 minutes plus stoppage time to find a way back into the title race.
With time elapsing, United seemed to have squandered the golden chance, as Giggs twisted on the edge of the box, and dug a cross out to the unmarked Welbeck, who mistimed his header and barely made contact. However, the old cliché that United never know when they are beat again proved resonant, as with 60 seconds left of stoppage time, Ashley Young cut inside, drilling an inch perfect cross to the back post, where none other than Ryan Giggs was lurking to tap home what could prove an absolutely vital winner come May, sending the United fans, players and staff into pure delirium. A trip to Spurs next Sunday now awaits for United, with the title race really hotting up, hopefully our good league form will continue into the all-important run in.
DDG – 8 MOTM Been accused of costing United points, but certainly gained them some this week.
Jones – 6 Some excellent crossing.
Ferdinand – 6 Did well up until the goal, easily outmuscled by Holt.
Evans – 7 Another solid performance.
Evra – 6 Vital surge forward for winning goal.
Nani – 6 Terrorised Norwich first half faded second.
Carrick – 6 Composed and crucial for keeping pressure on in last 10.
Scholes – 7 Masterclass midfield performance.
Giggs – 8 What a way to mark his 900th appearance.
Welbeck – 6 Should have been on score sheet.
Hernandez – 6 Looked to be lacking partner such as Rooney or Berbatov.
Young – 7 Drove United on and set up winner.
Smalling – N/A