Manchester United 2
MANCHESTER United remain on course for the unique treble with which they hope to honour the memory of Sir Matt Busby after winning a fourth-round FA Cup tie which was a microcosm of Norwich's hit-and-miss season.
The best team in the country continue to carry all before them on the broadest of fronts, goals from Roy Keane and Eric Cantona having deservedly installed them in the last 16 of the competition which holds a special place in their affections.
It was the FA Cup which set them on the road to their present prosperity when they won it after a replay in 1990, and it would take a brave man to bet against them winning it for an eighth time.
Wimbledon away in the fifth round will provide a vigorous test, as well as an interesting clash of styles.
The dastardly Dons were the last team to win at Old Trafford, 15 months ago.
United, though, have returned victorious from their last three visits in the League and, tricky or not, they are unlikely to be losing any sleep over last night's draw. These days, the champions' confidence is such that they travel anywhere with equanimity.
Thirteen points clear at the top of the League and through to the semi-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup, they are unbeaten in 29 matches and have an outstanding chance of pulling off their clean sweep of all the domestic honours - their treble with a cause.
Poor Norwich continue to delight their audience with pleasing, passing football, but elimination from three knock-out competitions leaves them with only respectability in the Premiership to play for.
As in Europe, where they failed in Milan for the lack of a decent finish, they were again undermined by the recurring weakness which has seen them score just eight goals at Carrow Road in the League all season.
Their sweeper system may have served them well, but it needs refining if they are not to leave themselves short of numbers in attack.
United, who will never be found wanting in that respect, had threatened with a far-post header from Mark Hughes before a swift, incisive break-out brought them an 18th-minute lead.
The pace of Ryan Giggs made the initial incursion in the inside-left channel, from where the gifted Welshman found Andrei Kanchelskis with a raking cross-field pass. The Ukrainian has a tendency to be too greedy in such situations, but not this time. A deft lay-off set up Keane, who drove a strong 15-yarder past Bryan Gunn's right hand.
Kanchelskis was back within a minute, lashing a left-foot shot against the crossbar, and Norwich were floundering, knocked out of their rhythmical passing pattern.
It was well into the second half before they were able to regain their composure, Peter Schmeichel denying them parity after 61 minutes with a stunning double-save from Jeremy Goss and John Polston. The defender should still have scored, blazing wide of the yawning target when the ball rebounded to him a second time.
Goss again and Mark Bowen were high and wide when Norwich assembled a promising little purple patch, but United hit back hard and Gunn was required to advance from his line twice to thwart Kanchelskis and Hughes before the second goal put the issue beyond doubt with 17 minutes left.
Rob Newman, inexplicably, passed the ball straight to Cantona, who is the wrong man to send such invitations. He accepted the gift with characteristic aplomb, slipping the ball coolly past Gunn on the run.
Unfortunately, the Frenchman lost his cool and, booked earlier, he was lucky to stay on the field when he caught Polston in the face with a spiteful back-heel.
'Despicable,' thundered Jimmy Hill, the sage of Shepherd's Bush. 'What a prat,' Alex Ferguson said. Hill rather than Cantona, presumably.
Norwich City (1-4-3-2): Gunn; Culverhouse; Bowen, Polston, Newman, Woodthorpe; Crook (Ekoku, 75), Goss, Megson; Sutton, Fox. Substitutes not used: Butterworth, Howey (gk).
Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin; Kanchelskis, Keane, Ince, Giggs; Cantona, Hughes (McClair, 80). Substitutes not used: Dublin, Sealey (gk).
Referee: P Durkin (Portland).
Reports and results, pages 30, 31
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