Sir Alex Ferguson's men warmed up for Tuesday night's Champions League crunch tie with Real Madrid by increasing their unbeaten stretch to 18 games in all competitions
A Shinji Kagawa hat trick helped Manchester United cruise to a comfortable 4-0 Premier League win against Norwich City at Old Trafford, to extend its lead at the summit of the table to 15 points.
The win against Chris Hughton’s subdued side never looked in much doubt, with Shinji Kagawa handing the home side a 1-0 lead just before half time after firing home at the near post following Robin Van Persie’s knockdown.
Kagawa then added two after the interval, coolly slotting home Wayne Rooney’s selfless pass to quell any hopes of a Norwich comeback before dinking over Mark Bunn to furnish a fluid counterattack with a delightful finish. Rooney put a gloss on the scoreline, smashing in from 25 yards with the game drawing to a close.
The result sees Manchester United further stretch its unbeaten run, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side now 18 games without a loss in all competitions ahead of Tuesday night’s crunch Champions League match with Real Madrid.
Sir Alex Ferguson sprung a couple of surprises by leaving Ryan Giggs – who is awaiting his 1000thsenior appearance – out of his match day squad, while also opting to start both Rooney and Van Persie with the visit of Jose Mourinho’s side just three days away.
The visitors made just one change from the side which came from behind to defeat Everton last weekend, with Anthony Pilkington drafted in for Luciano Becchio.
Aside from an over-hit Bradley Johnson cross in the game’s opening exchanges, Norwich spent the entire first half entrenched in its own half as the home side labored to prise them open.
United clicked through the gears with Michael Carrick drawing a routine stop from Mark Bunn at the near post and Van Persie and Rooney providing a moment of quality before their slick one-touch exchange was halted by Bunn at the feet of the Dutchman.
Just as it seemed the opening 45 minutes would peter out goalless United found itself ahead moments before the interval, with Kagawa lashing in at the near post after Van Persie had prodded Antonio Valencia’s cross into the playmaker’s path.
Norwich started the second half in a more adventurous manner though after getting into several promising positions out wide the visitors were unable to produce telling balls into the box, with Grant Holt the obvious target.
Right back Russell Martin was spared significant blushes after horribly miscuing Holt’s nod-down just four yards out from goal, with the Canaries front-man ruled offside.
Van Persie was replaced by Danny Welbeck on 65 minutes as United sought to rest their top goal-scorer and re-establish a stranglehold on the game, while Norwich brought on Kei Kamara – the catalyst for his side’s unlikely comeback against Everton last weekend – moments later.
However, it was Kagawa who stylishly doubled his tally for both the game and the season on the 76thminute to put the game beyond doubt for the home side. Carrick’s raking through ball allowed Rooney to cut back for Kagawa, who nonchalantly wrong-footed Bunn to slot home.
Kagawa got his hattrick moments later, taking a subtly heavy touch to collect Rooney's through ball before clipping over an advancing Bunn.
With the game entering its closing stages Rooney easily sold Johnson with a dummy 25 yards from goal to allow the space for a rasping drive that easily beat Bunn to put a gloss on a convincing Manchester United win.