Marcus Rashford marked his 200th Manchester United appearance in style by scoring twice as the Red Devils returned to winning ways by easily despatching bottom-of-the-table Norwich.
Rashford, 22, became the third youngest player to reach the landmark for the club and opened the scoring in the first half by stabbing home Juan Mata’s deep cross to the back post.
United dominated possession throughout the game and were rampant in the second half, England international Rashford netting his second after Brandon Williams was brought down in the box by Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul.
Anthony Martial, who is also closing in on a double century of United games, rose highest to nod in from another inch-perfect Mata cross to seal victory before the hour mark.
Full-back Williams should have scored for the hosts but somehow blazed his effort high into the Stretford End from two yards out with the goal gaping wide open, but Mason Greenwood came off the bench to stroke in a lovely fourth.
Norwich’s best chance fell to midfielder Todd Cantwell at 1-0 on the stroke of half-time, but the England Under-21 international’s low curler was kept out by a stunning save from David de Gea.
United move back into fifth place, five points behind Chelsea, while the Canaries remain rooted to the foot of the division, a long seven points from safety having played a game more than the three teams above them.
Ruthless Rashford marks his milestone
United were comfortably beaten by Arsenal in their last league game, failed to get a shot on target in a match for the first time in five years against Wolves in the FA Cup and were outclassed by rivals Manchester City in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday.
But this welcome victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in a performance that was a throwback to the Sir Alex Ferguson day, in total control at Old Trafford and taking their chances against a struggling side.
Rashford impressed up front by showcasing a wide array of skills, including putting defender Sam Byram on his backside with an outrageous ‘elastico’. He was ruthless in front of goal too, taking his tally to 63 goals for United.
|Age on 200th game for Manchester United|
|George Best: 21 years and seven months|
|Ryan Giggs: 21 years and nine months|
|Marcus Rashford: 22 years and two months|
|Cristiano Ronaldo: 22 years and eight months|
|Wayne Rooney: 22 years and 11 months|
|Bobby Charlton: 24 years and four months|
He now has 19 goals this season, the most in any campaign since his debut in 2015, and at 22 years and two months he became the third youngest United player to 200 games for the club behind legends George Best and Ryan Giggs.
But Rashford’s withdrawal for Daniel James on 59 minutes meant United remain without a player scoring a Premier League hat-trick since Robin van Persie against Aston Villa in April 2013 – a victory that clinched their 20th and most recent league title.
Fellow academy products Williams and Greenwood both enhanced their reputations, the left-back making marauding runs up and down pitch and winning the penalty, contributing five interceptions, while striker Greenwood came off the bench to take his tally to nine for the campaign.
“Beyond proud to become the third youngest player to hit 200 Man Utd games,” Rashford wrote on his official Twitter account.
“Can’t put into words what it means to follow Giggsy and George Best. Giggsy was massive in getting my first opportunity so extra special for me. Grateful to everyone who’s helped me get to where I am.”
United fans protest
With the game won despite more than half an hour remaining, United fans in the Stretford End turned to protest at how the club is being run.
There were loud chants of “we want Glazers out” and also aiming their frustration at executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who was sitting in his seat up behind the dugout and the man who deals with transfer negotiations.
The chants spread to other parts of the ground and the singing continued for around 20 minutes in the second half.
Ashley Young has agreed a deal to join Inter Milan but that could be brought forward to this transfer window, while it’s not certain any players are coming in.
The agent of Sporting Lisbon midfielder Bruno Fernandes was reportedly in London on Friday and it remains to be seen whether a deal is forthcoming for a player who was heavily linked with United in the summer.
Norwich still in deep trouble
Time is running out for beleaguered Norwich, anchored to the bottom and now with just one victory from their last 17 league games.
Teenage striker Adam Idah, 18, scored a hat-trick in the FA Cup against Preston last weekend and came in to replace injured top scorer Teemu Pukki, but could not assert himself against Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof as United kept only their fourth clean sheet this term.
Cantwell has impressed for Norwich this season and it could have been a different result had he taken his chance just before the interval, opening up his body and curling a shot that was pushed out by De Gea.
They shocked champions Manchester City earlier in the season at Carrow Road but could not repeat the result this time as they were thoroughly outplayed and have now conceded 45 league goals, more than any other team.
Man of the match – Juan Mata (Manchester United)
‘We are taking more steps forward’
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, speaking to BBC Sport: “Very happy. We started on the front foot. When you can walk off, and I am sure the opposition are talking about Manchester United as a very hard working team, that is what I want from my team.
“In any Premier League game you have to take advantage of the pressure and domination you get. Second half was very good.
“We reacted today, we can bounce back and we are taking more than two or three steps forward before one back, because behind the scenes we know we are doing good work.”
On Marcus Rashford: “Fantastic effort by Marcus getting to 200 games so quickly. He got through most of the game, he is struggling a little bit so we took him off. He kept his cool. Very pleased with Marcus.”
Norwich boss Daniel Farke: “When you are 3-0 down against probably the best counter-attacking side in the league, it is then difficult to win the game so today we have to accept the better side won.
“We gave the first goal away, sloppy in our defending, but you are still in the game. We had a good spell before half-time with Todd Cantwell and a great save by the goalkeeper.
“I was pleased with the reaction at 4-0. We had to stick together in the last 20 minutes. We are disappointed but we also know a game at Old Trafford is not a season-defining game for us.
“We are definitely in the worst position (in the league) but we are competitive. This is what can happen at this level. We are realistic.”
The stats – United hit scoring form at home
- Manchester United have scored 4+ goals in consecutive home league games for the first time since September 2017.
- Norwich are winless in nine Premier League matches (D4 L5) – their worst run since between January-March 2016 (10 games).
- Manchester United have kept two clean sheets in their last three Premier League games, as many as in their previous 30 in the competition.
- Despite having conceded the most goals in the Premier League this season (45), this is the first time Norwich have conceded more than twice in an away game since the opening day of the season (1-4 at Liverpool).
- Marcus Rashford has scored 19 goals in all competitions this season – only Raheem Sterling (20) has more among Premier League players.
- Juan Mata provided two assists in a Premier League game for the first time since October 2012, also against Norwich.
- Anthony Martial has been involved in 14 goals in 22 games in all competitions for United this season (11 goals, 3 assists), as many as in 38 appearances last term (12 goals, 2 assists).
- Mason Greenwood has scored four Premier League goals this season, the most by any teenager in the competition.
Manchester United host Wolves in the FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday (19:45 GMT) before travelling to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday (16:30).
Norwich are at home to Bournemouth in the league on Saturday (15:00).