Unconvincing Man United beats Norwich 2-0
Manchester United stayed top of the Premier League on Saturday after struggling to beat Norwich 2-0 despite the return of strikers Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez.
United leads rival Manchester City on goal difference after setting a club record 19th straight league victory at Old Trafford.
''This was not a good performance but we were gritty and we never gave in,'' said United manager Alex Ferguson, whose team had not dropped points at home since a 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion nearly one year ago. ''That is a fantastic quality to have.''
Rooney and Hernandez missed the midweek Champions League draw against Basel because of injury. Rooney was active throughout Saturday's match while Hernandez came off for Danny Welbeck in the 65th minute.
Three minutes later, Ryan Giggs' corner took a touch off both Phil Jones and Rooney before falling to Anderson who scored with a powerful header.
United's offense struggled without forward Ashley Young - left out with an ankle injury - while Anders Lindegaard played well in place of Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea.
''It was an opportunity to play Anders - he is going away with Denmark this week but probably won't play, whereas David is likely to play twice for Spain's under-21 team,'' Ferguson said. ''It wasn't worth the risk with (Young) but he should be OK for England.''
Norwich was especially dangerous on the counterattack with Anthony Pilkington coming close on several occasions but unable to net the visitors a deserved goal.
While Norwich rued missed chances, Welbeck sealed the victory by sliding in to finish Park Ji-sung's cutback with three minutes remaining.
Welbeck took his goal tally to three this week after scoring twice against Basel when the English champions wasted a 2-0 lead and had to rally to draw 3-3.
However, Norwich deserved at least a point, with Pilkington hitting the post - just one of a succession of decent opportunities.
''If you do not take your chances, they can come back to haunt you,'' Norwich manager Paul Lambert said. ''Manchester United are one of the best sides in Europe. If you switch off for a millisecond they will punish you.''