Manchester United 4 Norwich City 0
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Norwich City crashed to a 4-0 Premier League defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford that kept them firmly mired in relegation trouble.
Neil Adams’ side were briefly in the bottom three before closest rivals Fulham were pegged back to draw 2-2 with Hull at Craven Cottage prior to City’s latest heavy away defeat on Saturday evening in the north-west.
Wayne Rooney struck either side of the interval before second half substitute Juan Mata notched a 10-minute brace to earn interim boss Ryan Giggs the perfect start to his reign after replacing David Moyes.
Norwich’s gap to the bottom three was cut to just one point following their defeat at the Theatre of Dreams coupled with the Cottagers’ home draw ahead of Sunday’s league meeting between Sunderland and Cardiff City.
City managed to hold out until the 40th minute when Steven Whittaker manhandled Danny Welbeck to concede a penalty despatched by Rooney to open the floodgates.
Adams made one change to his starting line up from the 3-2 Premier League defeat against Liverpool with Ricky van Wolfswinkel preferred to goalscorer Gary Hooper. Johan Elmander was named among the substitutes along with Jonas Gutierrez. Giggs opted not to name himself in the match day squad, but there were recalls for Rio Ferdinand, Welbeck and Tom Cleverley. Mata made way with the expensive Spanish import on the bench.
The suited Giggs entered to a tumultuous reception from the home fans before he was greeted by City counterpart Adams at the front of the technical areas. Phil Jones signalled the hosts’ intent with an early burst but his cross rolled through to John Ruddy.
Adams opted to alter the diamond formation he had unveiled in his first two matches with Leroy Fer and Bradley Johnson screening in the opening moments and Jonny Howson tasked with operating behind van Wolfswinkel in central areas.
Howson slammed home in the ninth minute from close range but the away fans celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee’s flag for a shove from van Wolfswinkel at the far post on Jones as he strived to re-direct Robert Snodgrass’ deep cross.
Ruddy parried behind Welbeck’s hit after Nathan Redmond neglected his defensive duties to leave the England man free at the far post to control Martin Olsson’s miscued header from a flowing counter triggered by Michael Carrick.
Olsson then tracked Antonio Valencia after the pacy wide player looked to drive into the Norwich box following a sharp exchange with Rooney.
Michael Turner sensed danger when Shinji Kagawa twisted into a pocket of space seven yards out with United now dominating territory and possession after those early counter-attacking flurries from Adams’ side. Rooney’s miscued volley brushed Whittaker when Jones had been afforded the space to whip in a cross.
Howson did relieve the growing siege after good retrieval work from Fer but Redmond over-clubbed his intended centre for van Wolfswinkel.
Cleverley’s air shot bailed out the Canaries in the 32nd minute when Rooney’s exquisite lift picked out Valencia to roll in the England midfielder 18 yards out.
Whittaker’s timely intervention held up Kigawa with Rooney again the instigator with a deft flick before the midfielder poked Jones’ deep cross wide from an acute angle.
Ruddy then saved superbly to claw out Valencia’s vicious angled low strike and City earned a slice of luck when Turner hacked the rebound clear eight yards out.
But Norwich’s resolute defensive display was undone five minutes before the interval when Whittaker’s attempted grab on Welbeck’s arm was spotted by the officials inside the Norwich area after Valencia’s initial cross had evaded Turner, Fer and Martin. Rooney calmly stepped up to send Ruddy the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Things got even worse three minutes after the interval when Rooney collected Kigawa’s pass before drifting in front of three Norwich shirts and guiding a right foot strike past Ruddy from 20 yards.
Snodgrass tricked his way around Patrice Evra to cut a ball back from the byline but van Wolfswinkel had made a near post run to anticipate the Scot’s delivery.
Ruddy tipped over Welbeck’s stinging hit with United now looking set to score with every attacking burst before Nemanja Vidic headed over under pressure from Turner at the far post.
Rooney was again afforded the freedom of Norwich’s final third but his latest curler was this time was collected by Ruddy.
Elmander was introduced for the ineffective van Wolfswinkel in the 56th minute just seconds before Howson’s near post flick from Snodgrass’ dipping free kick was gathered by David De Gea. The Spaniard then punched Snodgrass’ second free kick in quick succession away from under his bar with City suggesting they had cleared their collective heads after the early second half setback.
But Juan Mata took barely three minutes to mark his arrival with a side foot finish to despatch Jones’ driven cross from close range after Ruddy had acrobatically denied Rooney in his on-going personal duel.
Hooper replaced Redmond for the final 20 minutes but it was United who continued to toy with the visitors – Rooney again allowed to advance to the edge of the Norwich area before testing Ruddy.
Mata grabbed his second in the 73rd minute with another point blank finish after escaping detection from Norwich’s weary backline to glance home Valencia’s half-volley following Evra’s deep cross. Ashley Young was a yard from a fifth when his swinging hit drifted the wrong side of Ruddy’s far post.
Elmander veered past Ferdinand in the 80th minute but his left foot strike slipped wide of De Gea’s left-hand upright before the keeper parried Johnson’s 20-yard piledriver.
Olsson’s deflected strike against Jones clipped the top of De Gea’s bar and Johnson skied a sharp chance over from the resulting corner in a belated riposte from the visitors with the result long since beyond them, but there could have been more misery for Norwich deep in stoppage time when Javier Hernandez broke clear only to drag wide.
• Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley (Hernandez 71), Kagawa (Young 65), Welbeck (Mata 60), Rooney. Subs (not used): Lindegaard, Smalling, Nani, Fletcher.
• Booking: Evra (foul on Snodgrass, 65)
• Goals: Rooney (41, 48), Mata (63, 73)
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson, Johnson, Fer (Tettey 79), Howson, Snodgrass, Redmond (Hooper 69), van Wolfswinkel (Elmander 56). Subs (not used): Bunn, Gutierrez, R Bennett, Josh Murphy.
• Booking: Howson (foul on Carrick, 29)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 3 minutes
• Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)
• Attendance: 75,208