CITY boss Paul Lambert said he was proud of his players and the Canaries' passionate fans after his team ended up on the wrong side of a harsh 2-0 scoreline away to reigning Barclays Premier League champions Manchester United.
The 3,000-strong Norwich contingent in a crowd of 75,514 were all you could hear for long spells of the match, with chants of 'We're Norwich City, we're here for our scarves' ringing round Old Trafford as a well-organised City went into the break level at 0-0.
In the second half City created a string of chances, with a Pilkington effort deflected on to the post plus other excellent opportunities for Morison and Hoolahan missed as the Canaries looked to pull off a shock.
But as the chances weren't taken United punished the visitors by taking the lead through Anderson's header, before substitute Danny Welbeck completed the scoring against the run of play.
Paul Lambert said: "We played really well and our fans were brilliant. It shows how far we've come that we're disappointed not to come away with anything.
"I think you can tell by the reaction from our fans that they know those lads have given everything against the champions."
City's starting line-up was unchanged from their 2-1 win over Sunderland, with Adam Drury coming on to the bench for Ritchie De Laet who was unable to feature against his parent club, and Simeon Jackson replacing the injured James Vaughan.
It was a bright start from the Canaries in the opening five minutes with Elliott Bennett making a good run down the right and United having to concede a corner, which came out for Hoolahan to have a curling effort, but unfortunately it was straight into the arms of Anders Lindegaard. Wayne Rooney also had an early chance with a low drive, which was comfortably saved by John Ruddy.
Ten minutes in a short free-kick from the Reds found Nani in space and his long-range effort was just narrowly wide of the post.
Five minutes later and Rooney escaped down the right and put a dangerous ball into City's penalty area, but a good block from Tierney denied a strike from the on-rushing Javier Hernandez..
On 17 minutes Steve Morison did well, chesting the ball down in the area and creating himself a shooting opportunity, but unfortunately he dragged his shot wide across the goal.
City were equitting themselves well with Hoolahan and Pilkington passing it around neatly, linking with Morison who evaded the Reds' offside trap just before the half-hour but was unable to overcome the challenge of Jonnny Evans, who just managed to hook the ball away for a City throw-in deep in the United half.
United were posing a significant threat through Nani's set-pieces - with the Portuguese midfielder creating opportunities for both Ji-Sung Park and Rooney - who on 36 minutes headed just over the bar.
The England striker also had another attempt six minutes later, doing well to gather the ball under pressure, but he couldn't steer his effort to trouble Ruddy and it went wide.
United were putting more pressure on the City goal as the half-time whistle approached but the Canaries defended well and went into the break all-square.
Half-time: Manchester United 0, Norwich City 0
Both teams were unchanged after the break. United had the first opportunity with Evra delivering a left-wing cross towards Hernandez at the near post but it was luckily too high for the Mexican and Ruddy gratefully collected.
On 52 minutes Morison made a break turning Evans, but hesitated and allowed the United defender to track back and deny the Welshman a shot or cross into the six-yard box for an on-rushing Hoolahan.
The game gathered pace with both teams making breaks. On 54 minutes Bennett and Pilkington created a great opportunity - the former Huddersfield man turning Phil Jones in the box then trying to curl a low effort, but Evans made a late block, which just took the sting out of the ball and it looped up into the grateful arms of Lindegaard.
Just after the hour City had two good moves - first Bennett broke down the right but unfortunately his cross wasn't strong enough to find Morison and the Reds 'keeper gathered comfortably. Then just moments later Hoolahan had a dig from about 25 yards which just dipped over the bar.
United made a double substitution on 64 minutes - Nani and Hernandez replaced by Ryan Giggs and Danny Welbeck.
But it was the Canaries who were continuing to impress - Bradley Johnson slipped the ball for Pilkington who took advantage of Valencia's slip and one-on-one with the goalkeeper he could only place his shot wide.
His miss was punished just moments later when United took the lead through Anderson. A corner was knocked back into danger for Rooney to head on for the pouncing Brazilian who jumped well and headed home.
However, the Canaries were not giving up and on 70 minutes Hoolahan was found in the box by David Fox, but the United defence just managed to see the danger out.
A double substitution for the Canaries this time - David Fox and Elliott Bennett replaced with Andrew Crofts and Simeon Jackson.
Then with 15 minutes to go City's best chance of the game came when Pilkington again found space in the area, his shot was deflected towards goal by Jones and past Lindegaard only for the ball to rebound off the post and into the Dane's arms, so unlucky for the visitors.
United were catching the Canaries on the break and went close to doubling their lead through Welbeck and Rooney respectively.
But City were still pressing forward and substitute Crofts cut inside and shot on 83 minutes but Lindegaard was equal to it and caught his effort. And with five minutes left Morison couldn't quite dig out a shot and his ball was cut out for a corner - Pilkington's delivery headed over the bar by a towering Leon Barnett.
And unfortunately City were to be punished again for not taking their opportunities - United broke with four minutes left and scored their second, Welbeck sliding in to convert Park's cross from the right.
Simeon Jackson dragged a late shot wide and the Canaries won themselves a set-piece deep in the United half, but it proved not to be their day - the clinical finishing of the reigning Premier League Champions proving enough to overcome Paul Lambert's side who can take great heart from such a positive performance, and one from which they could have claimed at least a point.
Final score: Manchester United 2, Norwich City 0
MAN UTD: Lindegaard, Evra (c), Jones, Evans, Anderson (Ferdinand 76), Rooney, Park, Hernandez (Welbeck 64), Nani (Giggs 64), Fletcher, Valencia. Subs not used: De Gea, Owen, Berbatov, Carrick.
CITY: Ruddy, R. Martin, Johnson, Morison, Pilkington, Hoolahan (c) (C. Martin 85), Fox (Crofts 74), Bennett (Jackson 74), Barnett, Tierney, Naughton. Subs not used: Drury, Holt Surman, Rudd.
Attendance: 75, 514