A lacklustre Manchester United were lucky to escape from their Premier League clash at Norwich City with a 1-0 win on Saturday. Ralf Rangnick’s side were no better than their relegation-battling hosts — who continue to prop up the league table — with only a late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty separating the sides.
It was a disappointing first half from United, who posed relatively little threat – at least from open play. After 15 minutes, a free kick from Alex Telles hit the back of a stooped Josh Sargent in the Canaries wall before looping up and clattering against the crossbar.
Just short of the half-hour, Norwich found a way through the United defence, but Teemu Pukki was unable to bring Lukas Rupp’s powerful cross under control. Seven minutes later, United created their best chance from open play, when Scott McTominay slid Cristiano Ronaldo in behind the Canaries defence. The Portuguese attacker was uncharacteristically hesitant, missing the opportunity to shoot first-time. Instead, he doubled back on himself, before curling a low, left-footed shot too close to Krul.
Three minutes later, Norwich went close again, with Diogo Dalot making a crucial intervention to prevent Pukki pulling the trigger from the edge of the six-yard box. Dimitris Giannoulis swung a loopy cross back into the United box, though Rupp failed to make a clean contact with his head, and the ball was swept up by David de Gea.
With seconds left before halftime, United forced another good save from Krul. A corner was cleared out to Jadon Sancho midway inside the Norwich half; his cross from the left was met by the head of Harry Maguire, though Krul was on hand to tip the ball over the bar.
Just under 10 minutes into the second half, a poor clearance from Victor Lindelöf allowed Pukki to snatch possession on the edge of the area, and his powerful shot towards the top corner required a tip over from de Gea. An ensuing corner was flicked invitingly towards the back post by Sargent, though Maguire scrambled to flick it over the bar.
United saw off the flurry of Norwich pressure, though were unable to apply much of their own. They benefited from a huge slice of fortune with 15 minutes left, when Max Aarons put his arm around Ronaldo’s neck as both vied to get on the end of a speculative McTominay cross. The referee pointed to the spot, and Ronaldo stepped up to dispatch the penalty himself.
Norwich responded well to falling behind, and two minutes later drew a superb save from De Gea. A free-kick was floated into the area and met by Ozan Kabak, whose powerful header was tipped to safety by a sprawling de Gea. Minutes later Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour went close; his effort took a heavy deflection off Eric Bailly and flashed agonisingly wide. Norwich deserved at least a point.