Manchester United strengthened their faltering top-four bid with a less-than-convincing 3-2 victory over Norwich City. Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick papered over cracks on what was a toxic day at Old Trafford with fan unrest at the current regime.
Norwich certainly weren’t hesitant in coming forward in the opening stages and could have taken the lead through Teemu Pukki inside two minutes, but perhaps explaining why they’re bottom of the Premier League (PL) pile, his missed chance came back to haunt the ‘Canaries’. Anthony Elanga robbed Ben Gibson of possession in his own box before cooly squaring for Ronaldo to tap into an empty net. Not satisfied with just one goal for his opening half-hour’s work, Ronaldo doubled his tally for the afternoon as he shook off Gibson to head home from Alex Telles’ inswinging corner.
Norwich weren’t completely out of it though and ought to have at least worked David de Gea when Pierre Lees-Melou was granted the freedom of Old Trafford to maraude forward, but his shot was tame and easily blocked by Diogo Dalot. The visitors did find a way back into the game before the break however, Pukki presenting Kieran Dowell with the simplest of tasks to head into an unguarded net on the stroke of HT.
United had crumbled, and Norwich could sense their nerves and equalised moments into the second half. Pukki this time got his much deserved goal as he finished inside the near post from a narrowing angle. The ‘Canaries’ weren’t done there though – Pukki again involved as Milot Rashica latched onto his deft knock-down and forced de Gea into a sensational stop to deny the comeback being complete.
All of Norwich’s hard work was undone by yet another defensive error, this time from Tim Krul as he could only flap at Ronaldo’s wicked free-kick and parry the ball into the corner to hand United the lead for a second time. Ultimately, it was Ronaldo’s 50th club hat-trick which decided the outcome of this game, though it would be unfair to suggest they were good value for the win. That’s no consolation for Norwich though, who travel back to East Anglia pointless and with their PL status hanging by a thread.