Man United beat Norwich, move 15 points clear
Manchester: A Shinji Kagawa hat trick helped Manchester United cruise to a comfortable 4-0 win over Norwich at Old Trafford which extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to 15 points.
The win against Chris Hughton’s subdued side never looked in much doubt, with Kagawa handing the home side a 1-0 lead just before half-time after firing home at the near post following Robin van Persie’s knockdown.
Kagawa then added two after the interval, coolly slotting home Wayne Rooney’s selfless pass to quell any hopes of a Norwich comeback before dinking over Mark Bunn to furnish a fluid counterattack with a delightful finish. Rooney then put a gloss on the scoreline, smashing in from 25 yards with the game drawing to a close.
The result sees Manchester United further stretch their unbeaten run, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side now 18 games without a loss in all competitions ahead of Tuesday night’s crunch Champions League clash with Real Madrid.
Ferguson sprung a couple of surprises by leaving Ryan Giggs – who is awaiting his 1000th senior appearance – out of his matchday squad, while also opting to start both Rooney and Van Persie with the visit of Jose Mourinho’s side just three days away.
The visitors made just one change from the side who came from behind to defeat Everton last weekend, meanwhile, with Anthony Pilkington drafted in for Luciano Becchio.
Aside from an over-hit Bradley Johnson cross in the game’s opening exchanges, Norwich spent the entire first half entrenched in their own half as the home side laboured to prize them open.
United clicked through the gears with Michael Carrick drawing a routine stop from Mark Bunn at the near post and Van Persie and Rooney providing a moment of quality before their slick one-touch exchange was halted by Bunn at the feet of the Dutchman.
Just as it seemed the opening 45 minutes would peter out goalless, United found themselves ahead as Kagawa lashed in at the near post after Van Persie had prodded Antonio Valencia’s cross into the playmaker’s path.
Norwich started the second half in a more adventurous manner but, after getting into several promising positions out wide, the visitors were unable to produce telling balls into the box.
Right-back Russell Martin in fact saw his blushes spared after horribly miscuing Holt’s nod-down just four yards out from goal, with the Canaries front-man ruled offside.
Van Persie was replaced by Danny Welbeck on 65 minutes as United sought to rest their top goal-scorer and re-establish a stranglehold on the game, while Norwich brought on Kei Kamara – the catalyst for his side’s unlikely comeback against Everton last weekend.
However, it was Kagawa who stylishly doubled his tally for both the game and the season on the 76th minute to put the game beyond doubt for the home side. Carrick’s raking through ball allowed Rooney to cut back for the Japan international, who nonchalantly wrong-footed Bunn to slot home.
Kagawa then got his hat-trick moments later, taking a subtly heavy touch to collect Rooney`s through ball before clipping over an advancing Bunn.
With the game entering it’s closing stages Rooney easily sold Johnson with a dummy 25 yards from goal to allow the space for a rasping drive that easily beat Bunn to put a gloss on a convincing Manchester United win.