Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ronaldo too crafty, as veteran duo combine to edge Man Utd past Norwich

Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring against Norwich

Manchester United relied on their experienced campaigners to see off Norwich after Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea proved age is just a number.

A surprisingly even contest in the opening 15 minutes produced little by the way of goalmouth action. It was left up to Alex Telles from a set piece to threaten the deadlock when his deflected free-kick bounced off the crossbar.

A lengthy stoppage than brought the contest to a halt after Grant Hanley suffered a shoulder injury. The centre-back fell awkwardly after an aerial duel with Cristiano Ronaldo and was replaced by Jacob Sorensen.

United looked like a team in transition with fluidity and rhythm sorely lacking. Nonetheless, they could’ve taken the lead as the first half wore on through Ronaldo.

The Portuguese icon was played in down the right, but his lax first touch forced him to cut inside. After clever feints accounted for two defenders, his curling left-footed shot was beaten away to safety by Tim Krul.

A spell of Norwich pressure as the break loomed threatened to expose United. However, as Canaries fans have become all too accustomed to seeing this season, their efforts weren’t rewarded with a goal when Lukas Rupp’s tame header was safely gathered by David de Gea.

The Spaniard was called into action again after the break, but this time Norwich’s effort was a rather more fearsome one.

Indecision from Victor Lindelof allowed Teemu Pukki time and space to shoot on the edge of the area. His strike was firm and true, but not accurate enough to fly past the diving De Gea.

Sorensen then threatened as United conceded a series of corners. With 30 minutes remaining, Norwich looked the likelier of the two to make the breakthrough.

Mason Greenwood replaced Jadon Sancho as Ralf Rangnick shuffled his deck. In truth, none of United’s starting forwards could’ve complained if their number had gone up.

Rangnick prioritising offloading players in January

Rangnick prioritising offloading players in January

The emphasis will be on trimming the squad down in January rather than building it up.

With little to choose between the sides, Ronaldo earned his side a penalty out of nowhere after being hauled to the ground by Max Aarons.

Ronaldo’s theatrical fall and loud yelp ensured the referee couldn’t ignore the call, though in truth, it was a needless foul from Aarons with Ronaldo’s aerial prowess likely in his head.

Krul did his best to put Ronaldo off, but the Portuguese held his nerve, blasting his side into the lead after sending Krul the wrong way.

De Gea follows Ronaldo lead

Norwich almost restored parity less than two minutes later when ex-Liverpool centre-back Ozan Kabak got the better of Harry Maguire in the air. His header was destined for the far corner but a spectacular diving stop from De Gea spared Maguire’s blushes.

A sweeping run from Marcus Rashford then wreaked havoc down the left. His cut-back to Ronaldo was slightly astray, however, ensuring the veteran could do little more than prod over the bar from close range with the goal gaping.

De Gea then secured the man of the match award when making yet another critical save from Kabak in injury time. On this night, it was Man Utd’s veterans who stood up tall.

READ MORE: Rangnick names Man Utd January transfer criteria as major financial factor comes to light