A BATTLING performance from Norwich City couldn't prevent defeat as they lost 1-0 to Manchester United on Saturday afternoon.
The Canaries were the dominant side in the first half but couldn't capitalise, and were punished soon after half-time when Danny Welbeck notched the game's only goal.
Their best chances came through Russell Martin and Gary Hooper in the opening 45 minutes, but despite unquestionable effort after the break they never hit the same strides and the Red Devils held on comfortably for their sixth win in a row.
Two defeats in three days at Carrow Road leave Chris Hughton's side 14th in the Premier League table at the half-way stage, three points clear of the relegation zone.
Three changes were made to the starting line-up by Hughton, with Wes Hoolahan returning along with Russell Martin and Ryan Bennett. Michael Turner, who was suspended, dropped out along with Steven Whittaker and Johan Elmander.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were notable absentees for the visitors, who fielded 40-year-old Ryan Giggs in midfield, with Javier Hernandez leading the line.
United kept the ball efficiently in the opening period of the contest, but the first real chance of the came fell to the Canaries on 17 minutes when Robert Snodgrass played a fine through ball to Martin.
The defender shot for the far post was parried by David de Gea, and it fell just beyond the reach of Hoolahan, with United eventually able to clear.
It signalled the start of a good spell for City, with Gary Hooper firing straight at de Gea first-time from inside the box after Snodgrass’ square ball on 22 minutes and then the Scottish winger shooting wide moments later.
City’s confidence was growing and Sebastien Bassong had a header kept out by United’s ‘keeper on 36 minutes, before Hoolahan advanced into the box only to see his drive blocked by Jonny Evans.
They remained the side in the ascendancy as the half drew to a close, but the scorers remained untroubled.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City 0-0 Manchester United
Welbeck replaced Giggs at half-time as United switched to a 4-4-2 formation, and it he who gave the visitors the lead on 57 minutes in fortuitous circumstances.
Bennett’s clearance was charged down and the ball fell luckily to Hernandez, and he flicked it into the path of Welbeck, who was able to round John Ruddy
and slide the ball home.
The lead gave United some impetus in the game and Hughton responded by introducing Ricky van Wolfswinkel for Hooper with just 25 minutes left on the clock.
Josh Murphy then replaced Snodgrass, and he struck from distance with eight minutes left on the clock but the ball sailed harmlessly over de Gea’s bar.
City threw on Johan Elmander to push for an equaliser but the champions' defence held firm as City slipped to a second home defeat over the festive period.
FULL-TIME: Norwich City 0-1 Manchester UnitedGOALS
: Manchester United: Danny Welbeck (57)
: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Bassong (c), Olsson; Fer, Johnson; Snodgrass (Josh Murphy 79), Hoolahan (Elmander 89), Redmond; Hooper (van Wolfswinkel 69). Subs not used
: Bunn (GK), Whittaker, Garrido, Becchio.
: De Gea; Smalling, Vidic (c), Evans, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Young, Kagawa (Januzaj 69), Giggs (Welbeck 45); Hernandez (Fletcher 87). Subs not used
: Lindegaard (GK), Anderson, Fabio, Zaha.