Sir Alex Ferguson hailed the resilience of his Manchester United team after accepting they had been second best to Norwich for large parts of the 2-1 victory at Carrow Road, where Ryan Giggs netted a stoppage-time winner on his 900th appearance.
After falling behind to a close-range header from Paul Scholes on seven minutes, the Canaries rallied and forced David de Gea into a string of fine saves. The United keeper was finally beaten seven minutes from time by Norwich skipper Grant Holt.
However, that just served to spark the Red Devils into life as Ashley Young's goalbound effort was blocked and Danny Welbeck somehow missed a free header from two yards before Giggs ensured a fairytale finish when he stabbed home to keep United on the tails of Premier League leaders Manchester City.
"I have to say we were lucky today, in the sense Norwich had more promise about them. I thought we were lethargic, too casual on the ball. Then when we lost the goal, we played brilliantly," Ferguson said on MUTV. "That tells you something about the temperament - they do not get nervous and started to up their game, so that augers well for us."
Ferguson, who confirmed duo Wayne Rooney and Tom Cleverley were ruled out of England's friendly against Netherlands on Wednesday through illness and injury, added: "I think the players were probably a bit embarrassed with the chances they missed, they know they should have done better during the game, and that is irrespective of Norwich being the better team.
"They just kept crossing that ball into the box. Without Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and (David) De Gea, we would have been down. They were brilliant the three of them.
"Norwich deserved a point today and it was a great goal they scored, but at that moment you saw us as Manchester United. I am sure this result will have an impact [on the season].
"Everyone knows we never give in, no matter who plays us, they know they will have to play right to the death."
Giggs, 38, said it was a "real honour" to mark his 900th game with the winner. "It doesn't get any better," he told BBC Sport. "Norwich put up a great fight but we didn't really play very well.
"We started the game really well, scored and took our foot off the pedal and Norwich caused us a lot of problems, but I think if you look at the last 10 minutes, we probably just deserved it.
"We have been in good form recently, gone to some tough places over last three or four weeks and got some great performances. Today was more about the result than the performance.
The Canaries have consolidated well on a first return to the top flight in the six seasons since last facing the Red Devils here, securing back-to-back promotions up from League One under Paul Lambert.
Only three teams had won at Carrow Road in the Premier League this season, and Lambert felt his side should take credit from their efforts again against United.
He said: "That was a huge performance by us. We gave everything. We were running on empty, but I couldn't fault our lads. Manchester United come at you from all angles, but I couldn't ask for any more.
"It was a poor goal to lose but the pleasing thing was, when you lose that goal early, you don't capitulate, and we never did that. We hung in and the United goalkeeper probably saved his best game for against us - some of his saves were magnificent."