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    Manchester United 1-2 Norwich City


    Both teams were hoping for an early Christmas present as Manchester United hosted Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. United went into the game on the back of three games without a victory, whilst Norwich had lost six of their previous nine matches. Three points were certainly on the Christmas lists of both sets of fans.

    The big team news was that Wayne Rooney returned from an ankle injury to become the tenth Manchester United player to make 500 appearances for the club. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young joined him in the starting line-up. Norwich continued with Declan Rudd in goal and Ryan Bennett replaced Andre Wisdom in defence. 



    Rooney nearly had the perfect start to his landmark day, only for the assistant referee to correctly raise his flag as the England captain slotted home a Marouane Fellaini pass from an offside position. The hosts began to turn the screw as Memphis Depay curled an effort off the crossbar, before Rooney pulled an effort wide with only 15 minutes of the game gone. Norwich did create a chance of their own midway through the half, as Alex Tettey turned Chris Smalling after a Wes Hoolahan pass but he scuffed his shot wide of David De Gea's goal. 

    United have been guilty of not turning possession into shots on target and goals this season and Norwich soon made them pay just as Bournemouth did last weekend. Nathan Redmond skipped past a weak Phil Jones challenge, before his deflected pass fell into the path of Cameron Jerome who slotted home for just his fifth goal in 58 Premier League appearances. It ended a run of six league clean sheets at Old Trafford for the home side and Jerome became only the second opposition player, along with Christian Benteke, to score at The Theatre of Dreams this season. United could not respond in the five minutes before the break and left the field to a chorus of jeers as Louis Van Gaal prepared a crucial half-time team talk. United had 70% possession in the first half but failed to have a shot on target despite a bright opening to the game.



    You would have expected the hosts to come out all guns blazing, but it was more of the same in the second half as United's final ball continued to be poor. Norwich could afford to place ten men behind the ball and break forward when the opportunities arose, a tactic they deployed to great effect on 55 minutes. Rooney lost the ball and goalscorer Cameron Jerome charged forward before releasing Alex Tettey, who poked home to fire the visitors into an unlikely two goal lead. United tried to respond as Rooney fired an ambitious bicycle kick over the crossbar from Anthony Martial's cross on the hour mark. Van Gaal responded himself by bringing on Ander Herrera for Marouane Fellaini to loud applause from the home faithful. 

    Eventually the hosts got themselves back in the game with their first shot on target after 66 minutes. French youngster Martial had his initial shot blocked, before cooling slotting home the rebound as United found a glimmer of hope to prevent a huge shock at Old Trafford. Alex Neil brought off Wes Hoolahan for Jonny Howson in an attempt to strengthen the midfield, though Norwich were getting deeper by the minute and inviting pressure from the hosts. Juan Mata forced a save from Declan Rudd with a curling free-kick as the game entered 'squeaky bum time'. Yet it was Norwich who nearly grabbed the fourth goal of the game. Substitutes Mbokani and Mulumbu combined, before the latter had his shot saved by De Gea, minutes after they came on for Jerome and O'Neil. United continued to play the Van Gaal way but the slow passing game did not cause Norwich too many problems as they held out for just a second win in their last 20 Premier League away trips.



    Louis Van Gaal will be left facing an uncomfortable Christmas as his team prepare for a difficult Boxing Day visit to Stoke City. Alex Neil, however, will be breathing a lot more easily as his team climb out of the relegation zone going into an away trip to Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.

    Man of the Match: Cameron Jerome
    Under pressure from the Norwich fans for struggling to score goals this season, the big striker caused Smalling and Jones problems all afternoon and deserved his goal to set the visitors on their way to a fantastic victory. 
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    Item Reviewed: Manchester United 1-2 Norwich City Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Chris Lincoln
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