Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Kagawa nets hat-trick in Canaries defeat

Shinji Kagawa, right, bagged a hat-trick as Manchester United eased past Norwich

Shinji Kagawa scored his first Manchester United hat-trick as the Red Devils warmed up for their Champions League duel with Real Madrid by brushing aside Norwich 4-0 to open up a 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Although Sir Alex Ferguson had promised his team would be fully focused on the "mundane" domestic fare immediately prior to the most glamorous of European nights, for most of this contest they were well below par.

Eventually though, United cut loose, netting three times in the final 14 minutes, with Kagawa grabbing two to complete a memorable three-timer before Wayne Rooney belted in a sensational effort as United's grip on the title tightened.

Ryan Giggs, Rafael and Rio Ferdinand were notable absentees ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Real Madrid. Up to first-half stoppage time, a brave Mark Bunn dive at Robin van Persie's feet and a low Michael Carrick effort that barely troubled the Norwich keeper were United's only threat.

Norwich's defence was marshalled superbly by Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgrass but their good work was undone when Antonio Valencia stepped neatly inside Anthony Pilkington on the edge of the area before floating over a cross.

Van Persie stretched to control, the ball bounced down for Kagawa, whose shot caught Bunn by surprise as it crept in at the near post. A sliced clearance over his own bar from Nemanja Vidic straight after the re-start was an indicator not much had changed from the unconvincing first-half display.

Jonny Howson had an effort deflected wide before Grant Holt got above Patrice Evra and steered a cushioned header into Russell Martin's path, only for the full-back to lift his effort over from barely four yards.

United continued to coast in second gear, and though Van Persie was replaced by Danny Welbeck, they were still too good. Indeed, barely any pressure had been applied to the visitors' box when Rooney sped into the box 14 minutes from time and supplied the pass from which Kagawa doubled his tally for the season.

Kagawa was not finished though and another Rooney assist created a further opening for the Japan star, who again finished clinically to complete his hat-trick.

Rooney has a few of those of course. On this occasion, his goalscoring intervention was more brutal as he lashed a ferocious effort past Bunn in the final minute.

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