REPORT: CITY 0-1 MAN UTDJUAN Mata's second half strike left Norwich City with it all to do in the Premier League survival race as Manchester United won 1-0 at Carrow Road.
City flew out of the blocks in blazing sunshine for the early kick-off, but Cameron Jerome's saved header after just four minutes was to be their best opportunity in a tense match.
The Canaries will be disappointed with their second half performance which was compounded by Mata's close-range finish on 72 minutes.
Alex Neil kept faith with his starting eleven from the 1-0 loss at Arsenal, but Patrick Bamford returned to the substitutes' bench in place of Youssouf Mulumbu.
Manchester United's preparations were disrupted in the warm-up when striker Anthony Martial picked up an injury, with Ander Herrera drafted in as a late replacement. This meant captain Wayne Rooney moved up front.
Carrow Road paid its respects to City legend Errol Crossan with a minute's applause before kick-off after the former winger passed away in April.
Once the action was underway, the Canaries created a great chance to open the scoring - Nathan Redmond, popping up on the left flank, chipped a cross in for Jerome, who saw his header kept out by David De Gea with a fine reaction save.
The visitors grew into the game but suffered more injury woes just after the quarter hour mark when Matteo Darmian went off to be replaced by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
After a period of ebb and flow, United went close on 29 minutes from a set-piece as Chris Smalling rose to meet Mata's corner, only to see his header fly narrowly over John Ruddy's bar.
No other openings came for either team for the rest of the half, however, and the game was left evenly poised when the whistle blew for the break.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City 0-0 Manchester United
Some tidy build-up play for United three minutes in the second half created a chance for Herrera on the turn, but Ruddy watched the Spaniard's volley into the sidenetting.
City weren't building any attacks to get the goal they needed, so Neil brought on Dieumerci Mbokani with half an hour left of the play at the expense of Robbie Brady.
The team responded with a higher tempo, but a spell of pressure ended when a loose ball fell to Gary O'Neil, who slices a half volley off target.
With 18 minutes left on the clock, they were dealt a massive blow however when Louis van Gaal's team took the lead.
Sebastien Bassong failed to deal with a high ball down the right, which allowed Rooney to advance forward, hold up the play and lay-off for Mata, who fired below Ruddy and in.
Minutes later, Howson was left hobbling after a 50/50 challenge and the influential midfielder had to be replaced. Neil took the opportunity make his final throw of the dice as Graham Dorrans and Patrick Bamford replaced Howson and Jerome.
United were in firm control, though, and should have doubled their lead with five minutes left but substitute Morgan Schneiderlin dragged his shot wide from Rooney's clever pass.
FULL-TIME: Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United
GOALS: Red Devils: Juan Mata (72)
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Pinto, Martin (c), Bassong, Olsson; Redmond, Howson (Dorrans 78), O'Neil, Brady (Mbokani 63); Hoolahan; Jerome (Bamford 78). Subs not used: Rudd (GK), Whittaker, Naismith, Jarvis.
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Darmian (Borthwick-Jackson 16); Carrick (Fosu-Mensah 88), Herrera; Memphis, Mata, Lingard (Schneiderlin 78); Rooney (c). Subs not used: Romero (GK), Januzaj, McNair.
REFEREE: Craig Pawson