LONDON: Manchester United and under-pressure manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer breathed a huge sigh of relief after a 3-1 victory at Norwich, where neighbours City had lost, lifted them five points clear of the relegation zone.

Norwich had suffered six defeats in their previous nine games back in the Premier League but manager Daniel Farke had been reassured on the eve of the game that his job is safe even if they are relegated. However he shuffles his injury-hit squad, a major problem is that Norwich do not possess the financial resources common to most of the rest of the Premier League.

The pressure on Farke was all about survival while United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been dealing with the pressure of expectation after the club’s failure to win any domestic trophy since the FA Cup in 2016 under Louis Van Gaal.

Recent signs were hopeful. In the previous week United had held Liverpool 1-1 and won 1-0 away to Partizan Belgrade in midweek in the Europa League. That was United’s first away win in 12 games in all competitions since the dramatic Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain in France in March.

United were fortunate not to fall behind in the opening minutes when England under-21 forward Todd Cantwell shot wastefully over the bar. But it did not take them long to take control. Andreas Pereira was narrowly off target before they took the lead through Scot McTominay in a scramble after a corner.

The Scotland midfielder thus wrote a piece of club history since his second goal of term was also United’s 2000th in the Premier League.

United wasted a chance to increase their lead on the halfhour. Referee Stuart Attwell changed his mind on VAR advice to award a contentious penalty after Daniel James crashed into Ben Godfrey. Norwich felt justice was done when Tim Krul saved Rashford’s penalty.

This was Rashford’s second successive penalty miss but he made amends by scoring United’s second goal within two minutes on an assist from Wales winger James. Rashford was not the only penalty culprit.

VAR view

Two minutes before halftime Krul saved a second United spot kick, this time from Antony Martial, after VAR adjudged handball by Cantwell.

Norwich made two changes at halftime with Cantwell being replaced by Onel Hernandez and the anonymous Moritz Leitner giving way to Marco Stiepermann in a reshuffle aimed at shoring up defence. When Stiepermann sought to add weight to the attack his attempt at a shot was foiled by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

That was one of Norwich’s last flurries before Martial justified his selection and made amends for his own penalty failure by scoring United’s third. Hernandez struck a late consolation for the increasingly endangered Canaries.

** Arsenal held on to fifth place but were denied victory over Crystal Palace by VAR. Sokratis, who scored their opening goal, was denied the winner by the video assistant after Unai Enery’s erratic Gunners allowed Palace to recover for a 2-2 draw from two goals down.

Mesut Ozil was absent again from the matchday squad amid speculation that he may head off to DC United and MLS in the new year.