Norwich City 0 Manchester United 1
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City slumped to a 1-0 Premier League defeat against Manchester United at Carrow Road on Saturday to suffer a fresh blow to their fading survival hopes.
Juan Mata cashed in with a cool finish in the 72nd minute following Seb Bassong's failure to cut out a ball over the top pounced on by Wayne Rooney. Cameron Jerome headed at David De Gea in the opening minutes of the game, but that was as good as it got for Alex Neil's side in a desperately tame offering with so much at stake.
Norwich remain two points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Newcastle, with both the Magpies and Sunderland in action later on Saturday, but their misery was compounded by another injury when Jonny Howson walked off with what looked like a knee problem.
Neil kept an unchanged line up from the team that lost 1-0 in the Premier League at Arsenal. Ryan Bennett failed to recover fully from a viral infection to be considered for duty, but Patrick Bamford was recalled on the substitutes' bench.
Louis van Gaal initially made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 with champions Leicester City, with Daley Blind and Marcus Rashford rested, but French international Anthony Martial was an enforced late call-off after suffering an injury in the warm-up.
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Ander Herrera replaced Martial, with England captain Rooney pushed into a more advanced role.
Both sets of players, fans and officials paused for a minute's applause prior to kick-off in memory of revered former player Errol Crossan, who died recently.
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Ex-United old boy Robbie Brady showed his intent in the third minute with a surging run and slip pass to Nathan Redmond but the visitors had enough men back to cut out the return ball.
Herrera then hacked Bassong's shot off his own line before the unmarked Jerome headed Redmond's cross at the feet of de Gea in a breathless start from the hosts.
Rooney raced down the right channel at the opposite end but Martin Olsson had tracked Mata's late run.
After United's pre-game injury woes the last thing van Gaal would have wanted to see was the sight Darmian requiring treatment in the 12th minute after trying to halt Ivo Pinto's overlapping burst.
The full-back was gently carried a yard off the pitch to allow play to continue before being replaced by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
Antonio Valencia veered dangerously into the Norwich area but Mata's cutback had no takers in red shirts. City cleared their lines from the corner and Redmond led the breakout with Gary O'Neil's strike from the edge of the penalty area blocked by Borthwick-Jackson.
Bassong headed Mata's inswinging free kick behind for another away corner, with Norwich momentarily stretched in midfield during the build-up.
Chris Smalling pinned Jerome to rise highest at the far post but headed over from five yards in a major escape for the Canaries.
Lingard then fired straight at John Ruddy from 20 yards with United becoming increasingly dominant in midfield.
City earned some respite in the 31st minute with Brady swinging in a deep free kick but De Gea had a comfortable take.
Memphis' free kick then clipped the Norwich wall before Pinto completed the clearance. Ruddy gathered Smalling's looping header under his own bar from Memphis' corner with the England defender's aerial prowess clearly evident.
Jerome attempted to carry the fight with a surge down the right before cutting into the United box only for Borthwick-Jackson to halt his progress before Marcos Rojo and Russell Martin were embroiled in a minor altercation broken up by Jerome when play switched to the other end.
Redmond again triggered a promising counter in first-half stoppage time but O'Neil's cross was flicked on by Jerome and De Gea had plenty of time to gather.
United carried the first threat after the interval when Mata cushioned a pass into Herrera but his swinging volley on the angle brushed the side netting.
Martin was well-positioned to hack Antonio Valencia's cross away with the home fans getting increasingly restless.
Olsson injected a much-needed degree of urgency that roused the home support but De Gea collected his deep cross.
Neil made his first move from the substitutes' bench in the 63rd minute with Dieumerci Mbokani replacing the ineffective Brady after a lacklustre spell since half-time from the hosts.
Rojo headed Mata's corner down after losing Jerome in the air but the ball bounced to safety from Norwich's perspective.
O'Neil miscued a half-volley after Redmond worked some space to deliver a cross but the intent was better from Neil's men.
Mbokani's first intervention ended with a miscued header from Hoolahan's cross grasped by De Gea. City, however, were punished in the 72nd minute when Bassong misjudged the flight of a deep ball over the top, anticipated by Rooney, who cut back inside two Norwich defenders to roll in Mata to finish calmly past Ruddy from eight yards.
Jerome rose unchallenged to meet Hoolahan's free kick in the immediate aftermath but headed over from close range. Howson needed treatment after appearing to open up his right knee in a block challenge with Michael Carrick, before making a slow and painful walk to the touchline and out of the game.
Graham Dorrans replaced the midfielder with Bamford also introduced for Jerome and the Scottish international was off-target with a header from Hoolahan's free kick.
United should have doubled their lead in the 86th minute when Rooney's exquisite reverse ball freed the newly-arrived Morgan Schneiderlin who rolled a right-footed shot wide of the far post. Memphis had Ruddy scrambling across his line in stoppage time with a free kick effort after O'Neil chopped down Mata.
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Pinto, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond, Howson (Dorrans 78), O'Neil, Brady (Mbokani 63), Hoolahan, Jerome (Bamford 78). Subs (not used): Rudd, Whittaker, Naismith, Jarvis.
• Booking: O'Neil (foul on Mata, 90)
• Manchester United: De Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Darmian (Borthwick-Jackson 16), Carrick (Fosu-Mensah 88), Rooney, Mata, Lingard (Schneiderlin 77), Memphis, Herrera. Subs (not used): Romero, McNair, Januzaj.
• Goal: Mata (72)
• Added on time: 3 minutes / 5 minutes
• Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorks)
• Attendance: 27,132