Norwich City 0 Manchester United 1 match report: Danny Welbeck the difference as United labour

The England striker makes his mark from the bench as Moyes’ men struggle to beat Norwich

Carrow Road

Manchester United’s dependence on Wayne Rooney has been considerable this season, but David Moyes’ side has developed the knack of finding a way to win, and in the Liverpudlian’s injury-enforced absence they did so again.

Having seen a much-changed side thoroughly out-played by Norwich during what became an almost embarrassingly one-sided first-half, Moyes sent on Danny Welbeck and the England forward obliged with an opportunistic goal to give his team a sixth successive victory.

“We would have started Danny, but he’s played a lot of games and we’re trying to make sure we give the squad the right opportunities to play, to show what they can do,” said Moyes, who had made five changes to the team which started at Hull on Boxing Day. 

The return from injury of centre-half Nemanja Vidic meant Chris Smalling could move to right-back, covering for the injured Rafael da Silva, but it was in midfield and up front that the former Everton manager really shook things up. Antonio Valencia’s suspension and the decision not to risk Rooney – whom Moyes said was nursing an adductor problem in his groin – saw Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and Shinji Kagawa starting alongside Tom Cleverley, while Javier Hernandez replaced Welbeck up front.

None particularly impressed, especially during the first half when it looked as though Norwich manager Chris Hughton’s decision to bring in Wes Hoolahan for Johan Elmander was going to be by far the more influential decision. Busy and inventive, Hoolahan was at the heart of the Norwich moves which, after a cautious first 15 minutes, saw the Canaries  create a series of chances. The first, and one of the best, fell to full-back Russell Martin, who after running on to a Robert Snodgrass pass produced such an accurate shot from a narrow angle that United goalkeeper David De Gea had to be at his most alert and agile to keep out.

Gary Hooper, turning on the ball in the United penalty area, should have done better than shoot straight at De Gea, Snodgrass curled a shot wide, and Sebastian Bassong, with a header from a Snodgrass corner, also required De Gea to make a save.

Remarkably it was the 37th minute before United finally had what might be described a clear attempt on goal, Carrick shooting high from distance, and City looked certain to go in at half-time with a deserved lead when Snodgrass and Hoolahan combined to carve out an opening that Hoolahan wasted by hitting a poor shot against the legs of Jonny Evans.

Moyes switched his midfielders around, Ashley Young moving to the left and Kagawa into the centre, but it was the introduction of Welbeck and a switch to a 4-4-2 formation that resulted in a major improvement in the second period. Even then, City nearly went ahead when the impressively pacy Nathan Redmond, played in by Hoolahan, flashed a shot inches past the post with De Gea beaten, but soon afterwards United took what proved to be a decisive lead.

Norwich central defender Ryan Bennett should have cleared, but Welbeck closed him down, and while the rebound fell kindly for the England forward, he took full advantage by pushing the ball past Ruddy, and from a rapidly narrowing angle, turning it into the empty net.

 How much of a part Welbeck can expect to play once Rooney and Robin van Persie return will be interesting to see, but it will be a large one according to Moyes.

“I think if you look at Danny now, he’s a big part of Manchester United. I think he’s a really good, good player, but what he needs to become is a good, good finisher, and here he did great to round the goalkeeper.

Hughton was “massively disappointed” not to have taken something from the game. “We certainly didn’t deserve to lose,” he said. We were excellent in the first half, but when you have your best period you have to capitalise.

“But we were good in the second half as well, their biggest threat was on the counter-attack, and their goal was fortunate. But when it falls to someone of Welbeck’s quality you expect them to score.”

Line-ups:

Norwich (4-2-3-1): Ruddy: Martin, R Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Fer, Johnson; Snodgrass (Murphy, 79), Hoolahan (Elmander, 89), Redmond; Hooper (Van Wolfswinkel, 69).

Manchester United (4-1-4-1): De Gea:  Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra: Carrick: Young, Cleverley, Giggs (Welbeck, h-t), Kagawa (Januzaj, 69);  Hernandez (Fletcher, 86).

Referee: Phil Dowd.

Man of the match: Hoolahan (Norwich)

Match rating: 6/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us