The bare match facts told the story of the match. United had nearly 70 per cent of the possession but managed just two shots on target.
The Canaries, though, looked frightened to death of taking a risk, managing just one corner and eight shots, with only two of them – both in the first half – troubling David De Gea in the United goal.
Van Gaal rested teenage hitman Marcus Rashford – and then had to reshuffle his line-up after Anthony Martial pulled up in the warm-up and Matteo Darmian was stretchered off after only 16 minutes with an ankle injury.
And his players were content to pass the ball around, knowing that they would finally get that one big chance.
That it came from a dreadful mistake from Sebastien Bassong summed it all up as the Cameroon defender totally misjudged Antonio Valencia’s hopeful punt.
Inexplicably, he lost his bearings and that gave Wayne Rooney – leading the line as United were reduced to six substitutes on the bench – a clear path to goal.