Manchester United managed to survive injuries to Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, a decimated defence and being thoroughly outplayed at Carrow Road, coming away with all three points in a strange 1-0 win. Norwich City can only have themselves to blame for failing to capitalise on their chances, although the manner in which they conceded will leave Chris Hughton thinking that the match could easily have gone quite differently.
The first half saw David Moyes' side put in an utterly miserable performance. They offered nothing going forward and were slack elsewhere. Only David de Gea impressed as the hosts kept United pinned in their own half, with Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick putting in particularly despicable performances.
But despite being given every opportunity to emulate Hull City and go up against the defending champions, the Canaries didn't seem to be on their game. Wes Hoolahan might have opened the scoring after de Gea could only parry a Robert Snograss shot into his path, but he was on his heels and the chance was gone, and Gary Hooper hit a snap-shot straight at the goalkeeper after working space well.
But it wasn't the missed chances that were the problem -- the real issue were the ones that never came. Norwich's play in the box was slow and stodgy, and it was very easy to defend against them. That gave United a chance, and they duly took it. At halftime Danny Welbeck was added to the fray, and that substitution turned the tide.
Granted, it did so in spectacularly silly fashion, but the visitors hardly minded. The hosts were still on the front foot, with Nathan Redmond grazing the post with a vicious shot right before the opening goal, but they were about to be hit with a sucker punch from which they simply couldn't recover.
Welbeck and Chicharito were fighting a losing battle against massed yellow shirts whenever they went forward, but their industry was rewarded just before the hour mark. Welbeck charged down an attempted clearance, the ball fell to his striker partner, and a quick pass meant that the substitute was suddenly clear. John Ruddy was rounded, a shot was dispatched, and suddenly United were in the lead.
Once they went ahead, it never looked as though they were going to concede. Norwich's attack was struggling even before their heads started to drop, and after Welbeck's goal, de Gea's net was never seriously threatened.
Norwich City starting lineup (4-2-3-1): John Ruddy; Martin Olsson, Sebastien Bassong, Ryan Bennett, Russell Martin; Leroy Fer, Bradley Johnson; Nathan Redmond, Wes Hoolahan (Johan Elmander 89'), Robert Snodgrass (Josh Murphy 79'); Gary Hooper (Ricky van Wolfswinkel 69').
Manchester United starting lineup (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling; Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick; Ryan Giggs , Shinji Kagawa (Adnan Januzaj 69'), Ashley Young; Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez (Darren Fletcher 87').
Goals: Welbeck 57'.