Norwich succumb to Wayne Rooney's brilliance

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesThe Norwich City faithful saw their team hang tough at Old Trafford until Wayne Rooney's brilliance took over.

Norwich toiled bravely but Wayne Rooney underlined why he is the finest English player of his generation in a 4-0 Premier League win every bit as routinely mundane as Sir Alex Ferguson had demanded during the build-up.

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Shinji Kigawa's hat-trick will deserve more column inches that it is likely to command. Rooney was simply sensational - capping a vibrant personal display with a thumping fourth in stoppage time. The champions-elect showed few traces of having Real Madrid on their collective minds ahead of next week's heavyweight European collision. Ferguson had demanded his troops take care of domestic business in professional fashion, and it was the bull-like Rooney who demoralised a well-disciplined, if limited Canaries.

Kigawa had profited from a fortunate ricochet via Sebastien Bassong's chest in first half stoppage time to puncture Norwich's brave resistance. Chris Hughton's battlers briefly threatened to get back on level terms with a burst around the hour mark until Rooney decided to muscle his way to the front of house. First, he embarrassed Bassong with a sharp swerve and roll; the unmarked Kigawa merely had to slot beyond Mark Bunn 12 yards out. Then the English terrier spotted Kigawa's third by cushioning a pass that the Japanese midfielder superbly lifted over Bunn from close range before Rooney delivered the coup de grace.

The visiting hordes who descended on this magnificent arena may have expected such an outcome, but for 75 minutes their boys in green and yellow were firmly in this contest before Rooney's interventions turned it into a cruise to the finish for Ferguson's side.

City know their Premier League fate does not rest on days at Old Trafford, nor is there likely to be any residual knock to confidence after that hugely-uplifting home over Everton the previous weekend. Norwich remain eight points clear of the current bottom three. United extended their lead over their inactive neighbours to 15 points. That in itself underlined the herculean scale of the task facing Hughton's collective at Old Trafford. Tottenham are still the only side to escape this part of Manchester with any points to show for their efforts.

Norwich's game plan was limited in scope but reassuringly frustrating for all, bar the final minute of the opening period. Bunn had been a virtual spectator despite United's overwhelming territorial dominance. Rooney and Robin van Persie's movement was sublime, but Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington had helped to choke the supply lines in a reprise of Norwich's successful winning mission at Carrow Road earlier this season. Kigawa's sliced opener ensured there would be no repeat.

Russell Martin skied over deep inside United's six yard box just past the hour mark, although Grant Holt was subsequently penalised for climbing above Patrice Evra. Rather than the sound of the trumpets, it was to be a final hurrah. Rooney's electric late cameo merely embellished a scoreline the hosts' dominance merited. Norwich's task now is to recover for Southampton's Carrow Road visit next weekend to safeguard their Premier League future. United's is to overcome 'Los Blancos'.

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