McKenzie completes United's fall

Norwich 2 - Manchester United 0
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The Independent Football

Norwich inflicted a shock defeat on Manchester United at Carrow Road - courtesy of second-half goals from Dean Ashton and Leon McKenzie - although it may have come too late to save their Barclays Premiership season.

Canaries manager Nigel Worthington had called on his men to show the passion required to produce what would be the most unlikely escape act of modern times, Norwich having been seven points adrift of safety going into this weekend's fixtures.

But each and every man battled to the last, frustrating United, who had started the game with the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.

Norwich still have it all to do to retain their top-flight status, but may now just have found the fight, if not the overall quality, to compete with the elite clubs of English football.

And with Arsenal's win over Middlesbrough earlier this afternoon, United will now need some much more inspired performances of their own if they are to claim second place.

The visitors had started brightly enough, the recalled Alan Smith shaping himself for a well-struck drive from the edge of the area, which was deflected and then hacked clear by Craig Fleming.

In the 13th minute, referee Howard Webb gave Louis Saha a stern talking to after going through the back of Jason Shackell when the young centre-back won the ball just outside the Norwich penalty area. Saha, though, soon limped off for treatment on what looked like an ankle injury.

McKenzie then suddenly got clear down the left, and sent over a first-time cross into the six-yard box. Damien Francis was inches away from connecting, as Heinze chested the ball back to Tim Howard, who needed two attempts to collect.

In the 21st minute, United were forced into a change when Ronaldo replaced Saha, with Smith going up front as the lone striker.

Just after the half-hour mark, United had a shout for a penalty when Thomas Helveg appeared to use his hand to control the ball as it was swung into the box from the left. The referee, though, indicated the Danish skipper had used his chest and waved play on.

Howard was less than convincing when palming a high ball into his six-yard box behind for a corner, from which Shackell sent a header down and up over the crossbar.

With six minutes to go before half-time, McKenzie skipped in between Gabriel Heinze and Mikael Silvestre out on the right. But Gary Neville was on hand to come across and make a timely challenge on the Norwich striker as, somewhat off balance, he shaped to shoot.

Ronaldo found half a yard at the edge of the Canaries box, and drilled an angled left-foot shot across goal and just wide of the far post.

United looked to up the stakes at the start of the second half when Rooney was introduced for Quinton Fortune. For Norwich, on-loan Arsenal youngster David Bentley replaced Graham Stuart to make his first appearance for almost three months.

Huckerby and Adam Drury exchanged passes on the edge of the United area, and released Damien Francis into the area, with his angled shot well stopped at the near post by Howard.

The American, though, was powerless to prevent Norwich taking a shock lead in the 55th minute after Rooney needlessly went through the back of Helveg out on the right, some 25 yards from goal.

Bentley swung over the resulting free-kick, and Ashton, positioned just behind the penalty spot, timed his jump to perfection to head the ball into the far corner.

United were soon pressing again, and Ronaldo let fly with a shot on the turn from 18 yards, which was only just off target.

In the 64th minute, van Nistelrooy replaced Kleberson and United had all their big guns on but it did them little good as Norwich made it 2-0 after 66 minutes.

Safri won possession, and slipped in Huckerby down the left. He fed Ashton, whose run beat the offside trap, and he took the ball into the box before selflessly squaring for McKenzie to sidefoot home.

United threw everything at Norwich during the closing stages, but for once, the Canaries' rearguard held firm to keep alive their slim hopes of staying up.