Louis van Gaal’s position as Manchester United manager will come under increased scrutiny after relegation-threatened Norwich secured a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Goals from Cameron Jerome and Alex Tettey either side of half-time gave Alex Neil’s team a 2-0 lead and Anthony Martial’s reply for United couldn’t stop Norwich climbing out of the relegation zone thanks to their first victory at United since 1989.
United were booed off at full-time by their disgruntled supporters and a run of six matches without a win in all competitions, a sequence that includes elimination from the Champions League and falling out of the Premier League’s top four, will lead to fresh questions about Van Gaal’s suitability for the job.
The Dutchman was taunted by Norwich supporters with chants of “Jose Mourinho: He’s taking your job”, a reference to the former Chelsea manager, who is free to seek another role after being sacked on Thursday.
Van Gaal has faced growing criticism from fans and former United players over the cautious style of his team’s play.
And although they made a lively start before falling behind, they failed to create enough pressure to merit victory.
Norwich defended doggedly in the face of early United pressure and ensured that goalkeeper Declan Rudd was well protected.
Wayne Rooney, making his 500th United appearance, did have the ball in the net in the 10th minute, but both he and Marouane Fellaini were rightly ruled offside in the build-up.
Memphis Depay looped an effort over the bar from 20 yards, before Rooney rolled a shot wide after Juan Mata had brushed aside Gary O’Neil.
Norwich did fire a warning when midfielder Tettey easily sidestepped a Chris Smalling challenge before rolling a tame shot wide.
But more home pressure followed, with Rooney’s outswinging cross from the right aimed at Depay eight yards out, and it needed a well-timed Russell Martin challenge to deny the Netherlands international.
Norwich, having survived the opening 30 minutes without conceding, began to pose more of a threat as they grew in confidence.
And they took the lead seven minutes before half-time, as Nathan Redmond burst forward and played in Jerome, who broke the challenge of Ashley Young before beating David De Gea, who could have done better with a shot that was well within his reach.
As the second half began in pouring rain, United soon found themselves two goals down.
Rooney lost the ball to Tettey, who played the galloping Jerome forward, and continued his own run to collect the striker’s return pass and drive a low shot beyond the stationary De Gea.
United captain Rooney attempted to make amends with an ambitious overhead kick over the bar, while the home fans demanded the introduction of Ander Herrera a who was brought on with 30 minutes to go.
The home side pulled one back within five minutes of the change, as Rooney got a flick to Young’s right-wing delivery and Martial sidestepped the challenges of Robbie Brady and Ryan Bennett to lash a shot high into the net.
That was the signal for Van Gaal’s team to increase the pressure in the game’s final quarter, but a big chance for an equaliser came and went as Young’s low right-wing ball rolled across goal, with Rooney unable to stretch to get a touch.
Moments later, Rudd dived to his left to punch away a Mata free-kick.
Norwich continued to threaten on the break, and only a smart De Gea save prevented Youssouf Mulumbu from adding a third.
Smalling had the final chance for the home side, getting forward to glance wide after breaking free into the penalty area on to Mataa s diagonal ball in.
But there was to be no late reprieve, and the frustrated home fans greeted the final whistle with a chorus of boos.