By Andrew Embling
- Rooney, Jones, Smalling and Young all returned to Starting line-up after injuries
- Result intensifies pressure on Van Gaal as United drop out of top four
Manchester United lost for successive weeks against newly promoted sides as they went down 2-1 at home to Norwich City.
Louis van Gaal welcomed back Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling to the ranks, but it wasn’t enough as two breakaway goals from the visitors stunned Old Trafford and stretched United’s run without a win to six games.
United made a bright start to the game and would have taken the lead inside 10 minutes through the returning Wayne Rooney if Fellaini had not strayed offside in the build up.
It was one way traffic as United used the width and speed of Martial and Young on one side and Memphis on the other to load crosses into the box. Memphis shot over whilst Rooney shot wide under pressure as United went in search of an opener.
Norwich had been almost anonymous going forward, but Tettey found himself in enough space to shoot at goal, although his effort was well of target.
It was becoming one of those frustrating afternoons for United as they once again failed to test the opposition goalkeeper.
Rooney supplied a delicious ball towards Memphis, who was unable to find the finish under pressure whilst Smalling and Fellaini were both a whisker away from turning in a Blind corner.
And it turned into an even more frustrating afternoon as Norwich hit United with a sucker punch, breaking at speed before Cameron Jerome found the back of De Gea’s net.
If United thought that was bad, it got worse ten minutes into the second half as Norwich broke away again, Jerome feeding Tettey who found the corner of the net to put Louis van Gaal under immense pressure.
Having failed to test Norwich keeper Rudd at all in the first 55 minutes, it left United with a huge mountain to climb. Rooney shot over with an acrobatic effort just on the hour as United started to show more urgency with the clock and the scoreline against them.
United bought themselves a lifeline with 24 minutes to go as Martial showed great feet to create a chance for himself and smash high into the net at the Stretford End.
The Red Devils were upping the pressure, but Norwich defended resolutely.
Mata saw a free-kick saved by Rudd, but it was Norwich who almost made the game safe as they stretched the home defence once again, only for Mulumbu to be denied by de Gea.
Smalling headed wide late on, but Norwich held on to record victory. Whilst the visitors celebrated at the final whistle there will be precious little Christmas cheer for Louis van Gaal and his side as they drop out of the top four.
It may just be one result too far to take for the United boss, with Jose Mourinho waiting in the wings and the United managerial hot seat starting to get a bit too warm underneath him.
Manchester United: De Gea, Young, Jones, Smalling, Blind, Carrick, Fellaini (Herrera 60), Martial, Mata, Memphis, Rooney Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Borthwick-Jackson, McNair, Varela, Schneiderlin, Pereira