Match report: United 3 Norwich 2
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a second successive Premier League hat trick at Old Trafford to edge Manchester United to a 3-2 victory against Norwich City.
Our no.7 scored two goals first half and a bullet free kick in the second to see off a plucky challenge from the East Anglians, who are facing the drop from the top flight.
Ronaldo had put us 2-0 up just after half an hour in the Easter sun, but a Kieran Dowell goal late in the first 45 minutes, and another early in the second from Teemu Pikku dragged Norwich back level.
But Ronaldo had the final say, winning it in the 76th minute with a screaming set piece to grab his second match ball in just over a month, after hitting a treble against Spurs in March.
On a day that saw top-four rivals Spurs and Arsenal lose, it was a nervous but ultimately vital three points for the Reds.
FIRST HALF - RONALDO BAGS A DOUBLE BUT NORWICH NICK ONE BACK
It had been a lively start by both sides, with Teemu Pukki having a decent attempt saved by David De Gea, Elanga conjuring up an overhead kick for himself that was held by Tim Krul, and Ronaldo seeing shot stopped.
But after just seven minutes, United were as good as gifted the opener, punishing Norwich's kamikaze slapdash play as the Canaries attempted to play out from the back.
Elanga was alive to the nervous situation when defender Ben Gibson had the ball in his possession in the box. The Swede picked Gibson's pocket easily and unselfishly squared for an easy right-footed finish by Ronaldo.
Norwich never looked comfortable on the Old Trafford stage and the early strike set the Reds up for a potential stroll in the sun.
The tempo did, however, slip for a spell and though Norwich were never threatening United urgently needed to relight their fire.
And it was Ronaldo again who did just that in the 32nd minute.
A Jesse Lingard close range snapshot cannoned off keeper Krul for a corner and the resulting set piece was delivered to the near post by Alex Telles. Ronaldo attacked the ball on the eight yard line to head home and extend United's lead to two.
Ronaldo was enjoying the day and the crowd rose in anticipation when he attempted a spectacular bicycle kick in the 39th minute, but our No. 7 sent his party piece flying high into the East Stand.
United, however, failed to kill the visitors off in the first half, and the Canaries snatched a goal back.
A rare Canaries attack saw Dimitris Giannoulis find Pukki, whose cross to the back post was met with a firm header by the unmarked Kieran Dowell, taking the edge off a what should have been a first half saunter.
SECOND HALF - RONALDO STUNNER WINS IT
Norwich’s late first half goal didn’t turn out to be the consolation most of Old Trafford hoped it would be, as the visitors were level seven minutes into the second period.
United had looked in command again in the opening moments, but when Pukki was slipped in behind the Reds back line by Dowell, the Norwich striker made no mistake to convert with a low right foot shot that went in off De Gea’s post.
There was a wait for a VAR check for offside against the Finnish striker but the goal was given.
United were shell-shocked and almost went behind four minutes later when it took a stretched arm from De Gea to tip a goal bound low drive from Milot Rashica wide of his post.
The Telles-Ronaldo corner combo almost got our noses back in front on the hour, but our talisman's header was strong but straight at Krul.
Norwich’s confidence was high and midfielder Dowell, who already had a goal and assist to his name, tried a long range chip that sailed just over De Gea’s bar.
United’s vulnerability on the counter saw Rangnick bring on defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic for Jesse Lingard after 63 minutes.
But with Norwich taking a stranglehold on chances, the interim boss tried again to inject creativity and danger by introducing Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata for Pogba and Telles 10 minutes later.
But, inevitably, it was Ronaldo who made the difference.
A venomous rocket of a free kick from 30-yards plus arrowed home in front of the Stretford End after 76 minutes to spectacularly put United back in front and secure the Portuguese striker yet another match ball.
Fernandes cracked in a low stinger after 82 minutes that deflected wide off Krul's knee as our confidence returned, and we were able to see the match out fairly comfortably after a see-saw of emotions.
Winning in the sunshineGallery
See the best photos as the Ronaldo-inspired Reds beat Norwich 3-2.
United: De Gea, Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire (C), Telles (Mata 73), Lingard (Matic 63), Pogba (Rashford 73), Sancho, Fernandes, Elanga, Ronaldo.
Subs not used: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Jones, Hannibal, Garnacho.
Goals: Ronaldo (7, 32, 76)
Norwich City: Krul, Byram, Gibson, Hanley, (C), Giannoulis, Dowell (Placheta 73), Normann, Rashica, Lees-Melou (Rowe 81), McLean (McLean 73), Pukki.
Subs not used: Gunn, Aarons, Zimmermann, Rupp, Tzolis, Sorensen.
Goals: Dowell (45), Pukki (52)