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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
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

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada