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Norwich City’s hopes of Premier League survival suffered a blow in a 1-0 victory for Manchester United at Carrow Road.
Juan Mata’s neat finish following calm set-up play from Wayne Rooney decided the clash, moving Louis van Gaal’s team to within a point of fourth-placed Manchester City.
Norwich, who remain in 19th place with two games to play, face an uphill battle to avoid relegation to the Championship.
United lost Anthony Martial to a muscle strain prior to kick-off at Carrow Road, and an Achilles injury forced off Matteo Darmian after 15 minutes of the encounter.
Early on in East Anglia, Nathan Redmond’s clipped cross presented Cameron Jerome with a fine chance to open the scoring, but the striker’s header was aimed straight at David de Gea.
The visitors went closest in the first half through Chris Smalling’s six-year header over the crossbar from Mata’s dangerous corner kick.
Ander Herrera, Martial’s replacement, volleyed a Mata pass wide early in the second period, which the visitors dominated.
Mata was more clinical with 18 minutes of normal time remaining, stroking a finish inside the near post after Rooney had been let in goal by a misjudgement from Sebastien Bassong.
Morgan Schneiderlin ought to have sealed the deal for United but, from Rooney’s clever pass, the substitute pulled his strike wide.
The hosts’ best chance of scoring in the second half had fallen to replacement Dieumerci Mbokani, who was unable to direct a difficult header onto the target, a little before Mata’s decisive strike, and the Canaries were unable to fashion a decent opportunity in the search for a leveller late on.
Alex Neil’s men may well have to win their final two games - Norwich host Watford on Wednesday and visit Everton next weekend - to have any hope of avoiding the drop.
United’s lengthy battle with West Ham United and Man City for Champions League qualification continues, although Manuel Pellegrini’s side remain in the box seat.
Should City beat Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the Sky Blues will guarantee themselves fourth place.
By David Maher