Live Commentary: Manchester United 4-0 Norwich City - as it happened

Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa shoots to score the opening goal against Norwich on March 2, 2013
© PA Photos
Sports Mole brings you live coverage of the Premier League clash between league leaders Manchester United and Norwich City.

Manchester United moved 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a 4-0 win over Norwich City this afternoon.

A solid first half performance from the visitors was undone by a Shinji Kagawa goal on the stroke of half time, and the winger went on to complete a hat-trick in the second half.

Wayne Rooney added a stunning fourth late on to complete the rout as United took one step closer to regaining the Premier League table.

You can read how it all unfolded on a sunny day in Manchester with Sports Mole's play-by-play coverage below.


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2pmGood afternoon! Thank you for joining Sports Mole for today's game between Manchester United and Norwich City!

2.02pmUnited will be looking to tighten their grasp on the Premier League title this afternoon. A win would put them 15 points clear of reigning champions Manchester City, and you'd have to say that would be an unassailable lead. City face Aston Villa away on Monday.

2.04pmNorwich, on the other hand, will just be looking to edge ever closer to that magic 40-point mark. Manager Chris Hughton's main priority will still be to avoid relegation, and when they reach those 40 points they can start to look up the table. They are currently on 32.

2.06pmHughton will know that he faces a formidable task this afternoon, however. They go to Old Trafford to face a United side in imperious form.

2.08pmThe Red Devils are unbeaten in 17 matches in all competitions, and you have to go back to November 17 to find the last time they tasted defeat in domestic competition... against Norwich.

2.10pmThey have won their last four league matches and dropped just two points in their last nine games. It's no wonder they have left their rivals behind in the title race!

2.12pmBREAKING: We're just hearing that Ryan Giggs has not been included in the squad for today's game, which means that he will have to wait for his 1,000th appearance. Perhaps it will come against Real Madrid on Tuesday?

2.14pmBack to United's form, and the next statistic is perhaps the most impressive of all. From the last 45 points on offer in the league, Sir Alex Ferguson's men have picked up a staggering 41.

2.16pmIn contrast, Norwich have won just one of their last seven games in all competitions. However, they are unbeaten in their last four league games and overcame Everton 2-1 in their last outing.


2.18pmTheir extended league form leaves a lot to be desired, though. They have picked up just one win - that one against Everton - in their last 10 matches. Such form has seen them slip down to 12th in the table.

2.20pmTEAM NEWS: Right, it's time to bring you some team news! We already know that Ryan Giggs will not make his 1,000th appearance as he fails to make the squad, but other big news from the United camp includes Robin van Persie starting despite speculation that he would be rested, while Rooney also starts.

2.22pmNORWICH STARTING XI: Bunn; Garrido, R.Martin, Bassong, Turner; Johnson, Snodgrass, Howson, Pilkington, Hoolahan; Holt

2.23pmNORWICH SUBS: Camp, Whittaker, Fox, Kamara, E.Bennett, Becchio, R.Bennett

2.24pmMANCHESTER UNITED STARTING XI: De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Anderson, Carrick, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie

2.26pmWe're just waiting for confirmation of the Man Utd subs, but we'll bring them to you as soon as we have them. In the meantime, let's have a look at both starting lineups.

2.28pmFor Norwich, they will be looking to Holt to get the goals. The Canaries striker is an expert at roughing up opposition defenders, but he will have to work extra hard if he is going to get any joy against the likes of Nemanja Vidic today. Pilkington, Snodgrass and Hoolahan can also nip in with a goal now and again, so they will not be short of firepower if they get a chance today.

2.30pmUnited's threats, meanwhile, are well documented. Robin van Persie has taken to Old Trafford like a duck to water and don't be surprised to see him amongst the goals this afternoon. Wayne Rooney has taken a bit of a backseat since the Dutchman's arrival, but there is still no doubting his quality and he is as capable of scoring as anyone else in the league. Valencia and Kagawa provide threats down the wings while the back four is as solid as any.

2.32pmIt is something of a surprise to see Van Persie included, however. He had been struggling with an injury this week and, with Real Madrid lying in wait on Tuesday, I thought that Ferguson may have rested the Dutchman. The fact that he hasn't shows great respect to Norwich.

2.34pmAnd that respect is well-earned. The Canaries beat United in the reverse fixture earlier this season through an Anthony Pilkington goal, and a repeat of that result would hand Hughton's side a famous double over the league leaders.

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2.36pmYou'd have to go back to 1989 for the last time Norwich beat United at Old Trafford, however. That is an indicator of the size of the task ahead of them this afternoon.

2.38pmOverall, these two sides have met 45 times, with United winning 26 of those compared to Norwich's nine. United have also scored 70 goals in those 45 fixtures, over twice as many as Norwich have managed.

2.40pmThis match at Old Trafford is not the only Premier League fixture on today. There are seven other matches from around the top division, and I will do my best to keep you updated with all the goals as they go in.

2.42pmWe're just getting news regarding Rio Ferdinand, and it seems that he has the flu, which is why he isn't involved in this one. That could also threaten his participation against Real Madrid in midweek.

2.44pmManchester United are obviously overwhelming favourites for this one, but can Norwich nick something? They've already beaten the Red Devils once this season, which will give them a lot of hope, but Chris Hughton will know how tough a task his team faces and I suspect he will be delighted if they come away from this one with a draw.

2.46pmIf they do pull off an almighty shock and win, however, they could move back into the top half of the table. They are reliant on the results in both Stoke and Fulham's games for that to happen, however.

2.48pmHowever, a loss could potentially see them plummet down to 15th place, which is perilously close to the relegation zone.

2.50pmPREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes from kickoff, which can only mean one thing - it's prediction time! I can only see one winner today to be honest. United have been so good recently and Norwich, despite their win over Everton, aren't hitting the heights of earlier this season. I think United will run riot, so I'm going for a 4-0 win to the Red Devils.

2.50pmMANCHESTER UNITED SUBS: Lindegaard, Da Silva, Hernandez, Nani, Young, Welbeck, Cleverley

2.52pmThe bad news for Norwich is that United have the best home form in the league, picking up 36 points from their 13 games at Old Trafford, meaning that they have dropped just three points all season.

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2.54pmThe even-worse news for Norwich is that their away form is among the worst in the league. They have won just once on their travels, picking up nine points from 13 games away from home.

2.56pmThe players are on their way out of the tunnel now, and they are given a rapturous reception by both sets of fans.

2.58pmThis is a big game for United. A win here will surely give them their 20th league title, but a defeat could shock their confidence and help Manchester City. United would have to suffer a dramatic meltdown to lose this title but, as last season showed, anything can happen in the Premier League.

3pmOld Trafford is drenched in sunlight today, it is a beautiful afternoon in Manchester.

0 minUnited get us underway!

0 minAnderson zips an early ball into the feet of Kagawa, but his touch lets him down and the ball eventually goes out for a goalkick.

1 minReferee Neil Swarbrick almost gets in the way of Vidic as he tries to pass it back and the United man gives him a glare afterwards.

3 minHalf-chance for Norwich as Johnson finds plenty of space to cross, but he over hits it with two teammates waiting unmarked at the back post.

5 minValencia slips the ball down the right channel towards Rooney, but Bassong is in attendance and he deals with it well with both Rooney and Van Persie bearing down on him.

6 minHalf-chance for United this time. Van Persie slips a ball into the box towards Rooney, but he just puts too much on it and Bunn is out quickly to collect.

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8 minVan Persie and Rooney try to link up once again as the former drops deep before slipping a pass into the England international. The return pass only finds a Norwich man, but United are starting to take complete control of this one.

10 minHaving said that, Norwich are now enjoying a decent spell of possession, which is only ended by Snodgrass being flagged offside. Better from the visitors.

11 minSnodgrass is doing the dirty work defensively as well. He has made three good tackles on Evra in the early stages as the United left-back threatens to come forward.

12 minA poor kick from Mark Bunn falls straight to Van Persie, who is pulled back by Bassong. Free kick in a good crossing position...

13 minVan Persie cross is a good one and finds Vidic at the back post. The centre-back nods it back into a very dangerous position on the edge of the box, but no-one is there to take advantage.

14 minUPDATE: The first Premier League goal of the day has come for QPR against Southampton, and what a big goal it could be. Loic Remy was the scorer.

15 minCHANCE! Meanwhile back in Manchester some fabulous link up play between Rooney and Van Persie sets the latter through on goal, but Bunn comes out very bravely to smother at the feet of the Dutchman. Bunn takes a knock for his troubles, but it's good to see neither player pulling out of the 50/50 challenge.

17 minUPDATE: As Bunn recovers, I can bring you the news that Dimitar Berbatov has put Fulham ahead against Sunderland from the penalty spot.

18 minWe're back underway at Old Trafford and Bunn will continue, but he cannot take the goalkick and is moving very gingerly.

19 minAnother nearly moment for United as more one-touch passing results in a ball behind the defence which is just too heavy once more. Bunn was out quickly again, and seems to be moving a lot more freely now.


19 minAnother nearly moment for United as more one-touch passing results in a ball behind the defence which is just too heavy once more. Bunn was out quickly again, and seems to be moving a lot more freely now.

21 minA period of heavy pressure from United results in a breakaway for the Canaries, but Carrick tracks Johnson back all the way and puts in a good tackle.

22 minThere's the first chance Holt has had to showcase his aerial prowess. He is found by a cross and beats Vidic in the air, but his header loops harmlessly into the arms of De Gea.

24 minSHOT! Van Persie pings a cross-field pass to Valencia, whose first touch is impeccable. His cross finds Kagawa in the box, and he lays it off to Carrick, who turns his man before dragging a left-footed shot towards goal, but it's easy for Bunn.

26 minVan Persie swings a corner into the danger zone which Vidic rises to try and get his head to. Bassong holds firm and heads it behind for what should be another corner, but the ref points for a goalkick.

27 minUPDATE: There has been a goal at Stamford Bridge and it is Chelsea who have taken the lead, Demba Ba making it 1-0 against West Brom.

28 minYet another nearly-moment for United as Kagawa controls a cross, laying it off to Rooney, but the England international is closed down quickly by the Norwich defence who scramble it clear.

30 minUnited have certainly been on top in this one but they haven't created a really good chance yet, and a lot of credit must go to Norwich for that.

30 minSHOT! Martin commits to a tackle that he is never going to win and Evra skips past him before crossing it in. The cross only cleared as far as Rooney, whose powerful volley strikes a Norwich man and they get it clear with Van Persie lurking.

32 minUnited are racking up the corner count at the moment. The latest is cleared away by Grant Holt as Rooney fails to beat the first man for the second time in a row.

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33 minCHANCE! More of the same for United. Superb link-up play including a number of one-touch passes give them a shooting opportunity, but Rooney's effort is again blocked by the defence, who have stood firm so far. Great approach play from the league leaders but they haven't had an end product so far.

34 minThat is not one for the Van Persie scrapbook! Turner's header is poor and Rooney picks it up before feeding it to the Dutchman, who cuts back onto his left foot only to slice an effort very high and very wide. That may be the worst shot of his career.

36 minUPDATE: Two goals in as many minutes at the Stadium of Light. First Sascha Riether doubled Fulham's lead before Craig Gardner pulled one back from the penalty spot. 2-1 to Fulham now.

38 minAnother United attack is thwarted by the defence. The visitors have kept their shape very well so far today.

40 minValencia swings a vicious ball into the box which just eludes the head of Van Persie. I struggle to think of a better crosser of the ball in the league than an in-form Valencia.

42 minUPDATE: Marouane Fellaini has given Everton the lead against Reading at Goodison Park.

44 minValencia backheels it to Smalling, who swings a cross into the head of Van Persie. The Dutchman's header becomes the latest blocked shot on United's stat list, however.

45 minWe will have two minutes of added time at Old Trafford.

45+1 minGOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Norwich (Shinji Kagawa)

45+1 minThe breakthrough finally comes! Valencia's cross is not the best and Van Persie scuffs a shot towards goal, but his effort falls to Kagawa, who strokes it home first time from close range.

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45+2 minYELLOW CARD! Snodgrass puts in a rash tackle on Evra and is correctly given a yellow card. Evra is limping but should be able to continue.

45+3 minHALF TIME: Man Utd 1-0 Norwich

3.51pmYou can't help but feel for Norwich at the end of that half. They defended admirably for the vast majority of it but were just undone by a somewhat fortuitous Kagawa goal in stoppage time.

3.53pmAt the same time, though, United dominated proceedings in that opening 45 minutes and thoroughly deserve the lead. Norwich limited their chances very well, but there was always the air of it being a matter of when United scored rather than if they scored.

3.55pmThe hosts came close to finding the killer pass on a number of occasions in that half, and their build up play was a joy to watch at times, but Norwich defended stoutly and, until the first minute of injury time, carried out their gameplan to perfection.

3.56pmUPDATES: There were other goals just before the break across the country too. Gaston Ramirez has drawn Southampton level with QPR, while West Ham have taken the lead against Stoke through Jack Collison.

3.58pmBack to Old Trafford, though, and that goal will have made Ferguson's half-time team talk a easier. He will want more of the same now and as Norwich start to venture forward looking for the equaliser, they should be able to pick them off and get a few more goals.

4pmHughton, meanwhile, will have been delighted with his side in that first half. They defended brilliantly for much of it, but that goal could have changed his talk drastically. Now he must get his side to be a bit more adventurous, which is bound to comprimise the solid gameplan shown in the first half.

4.02pmLet's have a look at some stats from that first half then shall we? If you're a Norwich fan, look away now.

4.04pmUnited have had eight shots, six of which have been on target, while Norwich are yet to have a single effort on goal. The hosts have also had six corners to Norwich's zero and have enjoyed the majority of possession.

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4.05pmNot exactly pleasant reading for Norwich fans, then. They will be hoping that they have more to shout about in the second half as the players begin to spill back on to the Old Trafford pitch.

4.06pmWe're about to restart this one, no changes for either side.

45 minHere we go again! Norwich get us back underway.

46 minNorwich left it late to come from behind to beat Everton in their last outing, remember. A repeat of that would be a fantastic achievement for the Canaries, but I can't see it happening to be honest.

48 minThe visitors have made a bright start to this half, however. They're controlling the ball early on and spending a lot more time with the ball in the United half.

50 minCHANCE! Norwich have their first chance of any note. Martin swings a low cross into the near post which Snodgrass attacks. Vidic gets there first and clears the ball behind for a corner. Much better from the visitors.

51 minNorwich's final ball has let them down a few times today. Howson has a chance to cross the ball in towards Holt, but he puts too much on it and it flies over the striker's head.

52 minCHANCE! At the other end, Rooney is slipped in behind the defence by Kagawa. The England man gets a touch to it before Bunn, but the keeper dives in a just gets a foot to it to send it out for a corner. He had to get that spot on otherwise it would've been a penalty and a red card.

54 minHolt and Vidic go shoulder to shoulder in competition for a high ball and the latter wins the strength contest this time, knocking the Norwich man to the ground. Holt won't like that!

56 minNorwich are dominating possession in this second half. A stat has just come up showing that they have had 68% of the ball so far, a rarity for the away side at Old Trafford.


58 minThe Canaries have another corner, and this one goes deep to Bassong, who rises to head it towards the six yard box, but United get it clear. The Canaries recycle and Howson has an effort from range which takes a deflection on its way out for another corner.

59 minThe corner beats everyone in the box and falls to Snodgrass on the other wing. The former Leeds man works space to cross, and puts it in to a very dangerous position which forces Evra to make a fine clearance.

60 minUPDATE: Steven Pienaar has doubled Everton's lead against Reading with a fine strike into the top corner.

62 minThe ball is hung up to the back post for Holt to attack. He beats Evra in the air and nods it across to Snodgrass, who someone puts it over the bar from four yards with the goal gaping. The referee's whistle has already gone, though, as he saw a foul on Evra in the build up. Very harsh if you ask me.

64 minSHOT! Rooney advances into the box and opts to go for goal with Van Persie screaming for it to be passed square. Rooney goes for it with the outside of his foot but miscues and the ball goes wide.

65 minMANCHESTER UNITED SUB: That's it for Van Persie today. Ferguson looks keen to save him for the Madrid game and brings him off to be replaced by Danny Welbeck.

67 minUPDATE: Kevin Mirallas has put Everton 3-0 up at Goodison Park now, while Stephane Sessegnon has levelled the sides at the Stadium of Light.

70 minAnderson almost completes a delicate one-two with Rooney on the edge of the box, but Howson is there to halt the move and clear it away.

71 minNORWICH SUB: On comes Kei Kamara for Howson. Attacking sub for Hughton, he looks like he's going for this one!

72 minNORWICH SUB: Another change for the Canaries sees Snodgrass replaced by Elliott Bennett.

73 minMAN UTD SUB: Tom Cleverley replaces Anderson for the hosts.

75 minThere is something of a subdued atmosphere around Old Trafford at the moment. This game is by no means in the bag and United will be keen for a second to put it to bed.


76 minGOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Norwich (Shinji Kagawa)

76 minA long ball forward finds Rooney racing beyond Bassong before he cuts back brilliantly to beat his marker. He has space to shoot, but instead chooses to lay it off to Kagawa, who has an easy finish. Very unselfish play by Rooney.

77 minSHOT! Rooney races forward with the ball and is brought down on the edge of the box. The ball rolls on to Welbeck and advantage is played, but the sub's effort at the near post is comfortably saved by Bunn.

79 minUPDATE: Jay Bothroyd has given QPR the lead against Southampton. How big could that goal prove to be in the relegation battle?

81 minYELLOW CARD! Turner puts in a clumsy tackle that leaves Welbeck rolling around in agony. The ref seems to let the defender off with a warning but eventually calls him back and shows him a yellow card. I can't help but think that Welbeck's theatrics contributed to that decision.

83 minUPDATE: Swansea's Luke Moore has given them a late lead against Newcastle at the Liberty Stadium, while Reading have got a goal back against Everton through Hal Robson-Kanu.

86 minGOAL! Manchester United 3-0 Norwich (Shinji Kagawa)

87 minKagawa has the hat-trick! Rooney is again the provider as he slips it into Kagawa inside the box, and the winger dinks it over the onrushing Bunn to complete the victory. A day to remember for Kagawa!

89 minGOAL! Manchester United 4-0 Norwich (Wayne Rooney)

89 minThe floodgates have opened! This one is a really special goal. Welbeck feeds Rooney about 25 yards from goal and he skips past one man before smashing a dipping effort past a helpless Bunn. United have moved into a different gear, and Rooney now has two assists and a goal to his name today.

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90 minWe will have four minutes of added time.

90+1 minNORWICH SUB: This is probably a sub to wind down the clock so United can't score anymore! Off comes Grant Holt to be replaced by Luciano Becchio.

90+3 minUnited are camped on the edge of the Norwich area now as they probe for a fifth. Apart from a period at the start of the second half, they have been utterly dominant today. Surely the title is theirs now?

90+4 minFULL TIME: Manchester United 4-0 Norwich

90+4 minFULL TIME: Manchester United 4-0 Norwich

4.57pmThey had to be patient, but the floodgates eventually opened for United. A hat-trick from Shinji Kagawa and a late Rooney strike has put United 15 points clear at the top of the table, and they did it in style.

4.58pmThe 4-0 scoreline is perhaps harsh on Norwich, who held out admirably for large periods of the match, but United were on top for the vast majority of it and earned their goals. For Norwich, it's another defeat, but United go marching on towards their 20th league title.

5pmRight, that's it from me today. Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for this afternoon's match which has seen Kagawa score three times as United move ever closer to regaining the Premier League title. Be sure to stick around for news, reaction and analysis, which will all be on the site shortly. Good afternoon!

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie has his shoot tipped onto the bar on February 13, 2013
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