Old Trafford, Manchester
October 1, 2011; 14:00 GMT
Paul Lambert’s Norwich travel to Old Trafford for probably their most daunting fixture of the league campaign, at least theoretically. The Red Devils dropped their first points this season last time around at the Britannia in a fiercely contested game. In midweek Champions League action, Ferguson’s ‘Red Army’ produced a rather insipid display against their Swizz opponents especially in defense. The early season swagger has suddenly deserted United and that must give hope to their competitors.
However, that’s as far as the joy goes for the Canaries – their premier league record against the Manchester club is rather poor to say the least. On the plus side though, Lambert’s men have had back to back wins against Bolton and Sunderland, and their morale must be fairly high. The Norwich fans travelling to Old Trafford would be out in full force, singing their heart out, as “On the ball City” could be the chant of the day, even though it might be hard for the men in Green & Gold to see much of the ball if Man United bring their ‘A’ game.
Sir Alex Ferguson would expect his team to respond emphatically after the lackluster display in Europe and the home fans would be gunning for the same. Norwich, on the other hand, would want to give a good account of themselves and take advantage of any uncertainty in the United ranks. These two clubs went head to head for the title in the Premier league’s first ever season; a lot has changed since then and it’s fair to say the ambitions of Norwich City have nose dived as Premier league survival is undoubtedly their utmost priority.
Team News and Tactical Brief
United are in the middle of an injury crisis of major proportions with as many as nine players either missing or doubtful for the game. Skipper Nemanja Vidic, Cleverley and Rafael are out with long term injuries and have not returned to training yet while the likes of Smalling, Evans and Hernandez are facing a race against time to get fit for the game. Fabio, who was injured in midweek, is also missing, as is Wayne Rooney who suffered a hamstring injury last week. But despite so many players missing, Sir Alex still has a lot of talent at his disposal to trouble the opponents.
The back four for the game will depend upon the players available for the game. With Evra, Ferdinand and Jones being the only three fit defenders in the squad, all are certain to start on Saturday. The manager would be desperately hoping for one of Smalling or Evans to get fit for the game or else Valencia could be deployed as a makeshift right back. However, Evans is most likely to be fit which means he will partner Ferdinand in central defence with Jones shifting to the right.
Sir Alex is likely to go with a four man midfield with Anderson and Fletcher taking up the duties in central midfield. The Scot was an unused substitute in the game against Basel and hence could be given the nod ahead of Carrick and Giggs. As far as the wide men are concerned, the manager could opt to rest Young and Valencia as both will be on national duty and United have a big week coming up post the international break. Therefore, Park, who is retired from international football and Nani, who came from the bench in midweek could start on the flanks.
Up front, Welbeck who scored a brace in midweek is certain to start, while his partner could either be Hernandez or Berbatov depending on the Mexican’s fitness.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-4-2) De Gea; Jones, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Anderson, Park; Welbeck, Hernandez
The biggest blow for the manager before the game on Saturday is that striker James Vaughan, who was injured in Norwich’s win over Sunderland, has been ruled out until the New Year. Other players missing for the Canaries are Daniel Ayala, Elliott Ward and Zak Whitbread who are out injured while Ritchie De Laet is ineligible for the game as he is on loan from the Old Trafford club.
Paul Lambert has selected the same starting eleven for the last two games against Bolton and Sunderland, with his team coming out on top on both occasions. With none of those players missing through injury or suspension, the manager is unlikely to change the winning combination.
Lambert has used the 4-2-3-1 formation in the previous two games with Morison playing as a lone striker. He will be given support by Bennett, Hoolahan and Pilkington but none of the four are expected to be as high up the pitch as they were in the previous two games considering this game is at Old Trafford. The two most important players for Norwich will be Fox and Johnson, both of whom will play in-front of the back four trying to break up the play.
The defence will comprise of the usual back four of Naughton, Barnett, Martin and Tierny with the impressive Ruddy in goal.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-2-3-1) Ruddy; Naughton, Barnett, Martin, Tierney; Fox, Johnson; Hoolahan, Pilkington, Bennett; Morison
- United have allowed more shots on their goal (85) to their opponents than any other team team in the league.
- The Red Devils have scored all of their Premier League goals (13) against Norwich before the hour mark.
- Norwich has not won three consecutive games since 1993.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
The youngster started the season brightly but had to miss a few games due to a hamstring injury suffered against Arsenal. He has come back with a bang, scoring a brace against Basel and now will be looking to keep the run going and thus cementing his place in the side. Welbeck looks to be a natural goal scorer and could prove to be a handful for the Norwich defense.
Manchester United 3-1 Norwich City
The Canaries will breach a shaky looking United defense, but the home side will have enough quality to go on and secure a comfortable win.