Report and free match highlights as Cristiano Ronaldo wins a penalty after being fouled by Max Aarons and dispatches it past Tim Krul; Norwich have a string of second-half chances, but fail to score; Ralf Rangnick remains unbeaten in the league since taking interim charge at Man Utd
Sunday 12 December 2021 08:03, UK
Cristiano Ronaldo won and scored a penalty as Manchester United beat a spirited Norwich 1-0, continuing Ralf Rangnick's perfect start as interim manager in the Premier League.
It was not quite the scintillating first half that United had produced in Rangnick's first game against Crystal Palace last week, with Alex Telles' free kick being tipped onto the crossbar.
Norwich suffered an early blow when captain Grant Hanley was taken off with a shoulder injury, having fallen heavily after a tussle with Ronaldo. He was later seen watching from the touchlines with his arm in a sling.
However, Dean Smith's side did not show any ill-effects of losing such a vital player as they dominated the second half and Przemyslaw Placheta, Teemu Pukki and Josh Sargent all went close.
But if the Norwich fans were unhappy with Ronaldo's role in Hanley's injury, he did little to endear himself to them further when he won a penalty after Max Aarons had grappled him to the floor.
The decision infuriated the Canaries, but Ronaldo fired home from the spot (75) to secure Rangnick's second successive Premier League victory and clean sheet.
United had David de Gea to thank for both of those as he made late saves from Ozan Kabak to earn Gary Neville's man of the match award. The goalkeeper also registered his 200th career clean sheet.
United now go level on points with fourth-placed West Ham, who face a trip to Burnley on Sunday, and sit in fifth place on goal difference. It was an undeserved result for Norwich, who remain bottom of the Premier League table with 10 points.
Norwich began well, but it was Manchester United who went close in the 14th minute. Telles' free kick pinged off Sargent's head in the wall, forcing a leaping save from Tim Krul to push the effort onto the crossbar.
Despite a good start, Norwich suffered an early injury blow that they can ill afford. With illness, Covid-19 positive tests and injuries already forcing Dean Smith to make five changes, captain Hanley was taken off with a shoulder injury. He landed heavily on it after a tussle with Ronaldo down the right, with Norwich fans booing the forward for the remainder of the game.
But the Canaries did go close just before the half-hour. Placheta - making his first Premier League start - sent the ball in from the right, easily dinking past Scott McTominay. His pass found Lukas Rupp, who laid it off to Pukki just behind, but the ball instead hit the striker on the shin before it ran away from his feet.
Norwich: Krul (6), Aarons (6), Hanley (6), Kabak (7), Giannoulis (7), Placheta (7), Rupp (7), Gilmour (7), McLean (7), Sargent (6), Pukki (6).
Subs used: Sorensen (7), Cantwell (6), Lees-Melou (6).
Man Utd: De Gea (8), Dalot (6), Lindelof (6), Maguire (6), Telles (6), McTominay (7), Fred (6), Sancho (6), Fernandes (7), Rashford (6), Ronaldo (6).
Subs used: Greenwood (5), Bailly (6)Van de Beek (n/a).
Man of the match: David de Gea.
Both sides continued to trade chances as the half continued. Krul made two wonderful saves to keep United at bay - the first from a curling Ronaldo effort and another from Harry Maguire's wayward header late in the half. De Gea also made a stop as Rupp nodded his way, with neither side able to break the deadlock.
Norwich tested United throughout the second half. Early on, Placheta easily dinked past Harry Maguire, but his shot went straight at De Gea. However, their best chance came in the 57th minute. Victor Lindelof's poor defensive header only went as far as Rupp, who picked out Pukki inside the area and he found his space, but De Gea tipped the shot over the crossbar with his fingertips.
The hosts continued to test United - Sargent going close from one of Norwich's many corners - but it was Rangnick's side who eventually made the breakthrough as Ronaldo went to ground inside the area with Aarons' arm around his shoulders.
Referee Darren England pointed to the spot, despite Norwich protests. As VAR checked it, Ronaldo placed the ball on the spot while Krul pumped up the supporters behind the goal. However, it was the United forward who came out on top, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way with a thumping penalty.
It was a breathless end to the game at Carrow Road, and Kabak twice went close to an equaliser. The first came just after the United goal as he nodded goalwards, but De Gea kept him out with an outstretched arm. He was there again as Billy Gilmour - who also saw a superb shot deflected behind - crossed his way, but De Gea batted the low header away.
Ronaldo also missed a huge chance to add a second late on, but he skied Marcus Rashford's squared pass over the crossbar. However, a second goal was thankfully not needed as United took all three points back to Manchester.
He was a huge part of why Manchester United came away with the victory and a second successive Premier League clean sheet. Norwich tested the keeper on many occasions, but he was at his acrobatic best to deny them deserved points.
De Gea told Sky Sports after the game: "I was feeling very good, I was enjoying the game, I was focused, I knew I had to make a couple of saves so I made them and helped the team win the game. Every save is important - especially when the team wins.
"I'm feeling very good, very strong, very confident. The most important thing is helping the team with my experience.
Sky Sports' Gary Neville at Carrow Road:
"We were told before the first game and all week that United will be high energy and high press. That did not exist today. It was a really strange one to understand what happened out there on the ball and off it.
"Those players will have had a free week to prepare so I was expecting a ferociously frantic start to the game. Really high pressing, loads of quick play and it was lethargic from minute one.
"On the ball they were so sloppy it's untrue. They gave it away so many times it was unbelievable.
"One of the things Ralf Rangnick had to try and fix first was the defensive problems and make them tougher to play against. I don't think they were tough to play against today.
"The big mystery for me was why Manchester United were so lacking in energy. I thought they would be a lot better than that, particularly with the fact those players out on the pitch have had a free week to prepare for this match.
"So it's a little bit of a mystery in terms of today's game. We'll know a little bit more after Tuesday's game, as will Ralf Rangnick. He's still finding out about his players."
Norwich manager Dean Smith: "I've seen the penalty back and does he make contact with him in the box? Yes. Does he have his arm up? Yes. But I can show you five or six different challenges in the game, whether they're inside or outside the box, that weren't given. We're after consistency and there's no consistency there.
"I just felt like it was too easy for Manchester United to referee the game today - Marcus Rashford gave himself a free-kick in the first half.
"For me, there was a build-up during the game. You can't have players refereeing the game and it felt like it was. I'm going to sound like a sore loser and maybe I am, but I don't think our performance deserved to lose the game today. There were some questionable decisions today.
"It's a soft penalty, but there were soft moments throughout the game when he didn't give them so it has to be consistent.
"We had some really good moments in the game today. I thought performance levels were really good. There were times in the first half when we had to defend, but I thought we took the game to them in the second half and created some really good chances.
"But we know we have to get better in those big moments because they are the ones that will get us out of danger."
Man Utd interim manager Ralf Rangnick: "It was a very physical, intense game, I already told Dean they played extremely well, not at all like a bottom team. They played like we played against Crystal Palace.
"In the first 15 mins we struggled tactically, but then it was better. In the second half we had a better body language up front, but still allowed them too many shots and corners, so in the end it was De Gea who made sure it was a clean sheet.
"It's about intensity, body language, physicality. This was always the case. If you want to keep control of a game like this you need to be physically present, and this wasn't the case in all positions.
"Some of our players are technical players, and today there was not much space for technical solutions, and then you need to be physically brave, and compete on that kind of level. We need to raise our level of intensity in games like this.
"It's not only a question of individual players, it's how we play as a team, but it's also a question of who wins balls and second balls.
"We need to improve, we need to get better, that's for sure. Tuesday against Brentford is a difficult game, it will be a challenge for us."
Rangnick also gave an update on Victor Lindelof, who was substituted in the second half with a mysterious illness: "He had a collision, he can't even remember what it was, but he was struggling to breathe. He said he felt pain on his chest, but they've checked him, and they've done all the tests and everything seems to be OK."
Norwich host Aston Villa at 7.45pm on Tuesday, while Man Utd go to Brentford at 7.30pm on the same night. Watch free highlights from both games shortly after full time on Sky Sports.com, the Sky Sports App and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel.