Kagawa hat trick gives Manchester United a 4-0 win over Norwich
MANCHESTER, England (AP) -Shinji Kagawa scored a hat trick Saturday as Manchester United kept its firm grip on the Premier League title with a 4-0 win over Norwich at Old Trafford.
The Japan international put United ahead with a deft volley right before halftime and then added two more well-taken goals in the second half to make sure United extended its lead over Manchester City to 15 points ahead of its crosstown rival's game against Aston Villa on Monday.
Wayne Rooney capped off a dominant display with a looping long-range strike into the top of the net in the 90th minute as United warmed up for its Champions League game against Real Madrid on Tuesday.
However, the scoreline flattered United as the last three goals came in the final 14 minutes and the hosts had looked below par for much of the game until then.
Kagawa, however, showed that his back to his best after struggling with a knee injury earlier this season as he became the first Asian player to score a hat trick in the Premier League.
"It was a brilliant day for him,'' United manager Alex Ferguson. "He is a good finisher. His second goal was composed and intelligent, his last was brilliant.''
The first one came after Antonio Valencia floated a left-footed cross toward Robin van Persie, whose attempt to control the ball only deflected it toward Kagawa, whose shot caught goalkeeper Mark Bunn by surprise as it crept in at the near post.
Rooney set up the second when he sped into the box and laid the ball off to Kagawa, who camly sidefooted it inside the near post. His third finish was equally clinical, again taking a pass from Rooney and chipping the ball past Bunn.
The best goal of the day still belonged to Rooney, who collected the ball outside the area, drove past a defender and then unleashed a fierce strike that a diving Bunn could only flap at before seeing it land in the top of the net.
Ferguson opted to rest Ryan Giggs ahead of the Madrid game, meaning the veteran midfielder will have to wait for his 1,000th professional game.
Despite United's massive lead in the standings, Ferguson is also choosing to wait before declaring that the title race is over.
"The best way for us to handle it is to win our games,'' Ferguson said. "If we win our next game, then the next, we don't need to look back. There is a great atmosphere in the dressing room. That is helping us.''