Carrow Road, Norwich
Saturday, November 17, 17:30 GMT
Manchester United face another tricky away test as they travel to Carrow Road to face a resurgent Norwich side. The Canaries have already claimed a huge scalp in the form of Arsenal but this would be massive if Chris Hughton’s side can get the better of Sir Alex’s men. The corresponding fixture last season saw the record breaking Ryan Giggs claim a last gasp winner in his 900th appearance for the Red Devils in a moment that will linger on in the psyche for every United fan for ages. Norwich, who once used to be top dogs, along with United, battling for the title in the early years of the Premier league are nowadays consigned to fighting off relegation, ergo anything against this current United side would be considered a colossal bonus.
Norwich City, under the new management, have started gathering some steam as Chris Hughton looks to build on the remarkable ground work laid by the Paul Lambert. After a slow start to their campaign, the Canaries turned a corner with that memorable win against the Gunners and have since picked up points regularly. Hughton’s side is unbeaten in four, winning two and drawing the rest. However, the next two fixtures would be the acid test for the men from Carrow Road; the home game against United, followed by a trip to Merseyside to face an in-form Everton. Nevertheless, City have shown they are capable of upsurging anyone on their day, especially at home.
Manchester United, on the other hand, keep winning; a habit which they would be keen to never let go. Another second half comeback at Villa Park made sure United gathered all three points and stayed top, but Fergie’s side must start games better. Midweek international games could influence the starting eleven but whatever combination the manager chooses should be good enough to get the job done on the given day. The Red Devils must look to make the most of this relatively easy run of fixtures and Sir Alex would ensure complacency is never a factor in the dressing room.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Chris Hughton does not have too many injury problems going into the game, which is always welcome for any manager whose team is up against Manchester United. Harry Kane, the young forward on loan from Tottenham, is out with an injured ankle while Russell Martin’s back injury will be assessed before the game. The right-back has been struggling with his back for quite a while and it will be interesting to see whether the manager takes a chance with him, if he is deemed fit.
The Canaries have not lost in their last four games and the manager has kept the faith in his players by giving them an extended run. Grant Holt has been leading the line quite well and he might prove to be quite troublesome for the struggling United defence. A lot of diagonal balls are expected to be delivered towards him as his brilliant hold-up play will help his team in hitting United on the break. Wesley Hoolahan will be supporting him by playing a slightly deeper role and making late runs into the United box.
Norwich are one of the few teams in the Premier League that play in a traditional way with two central midfielders and two wide players. Pilkington and Snodgrass will be the two wide men and will be delivering a lot of crosses into the United box for Grant Holt and Wesley Hoolahan. Tettey and Johnson will be the two central midfielders building up the play for the home side. While there is a general norm of a defensive midfielder being deployed these days, Hughton uses both these men as box-to-box players as both are equally good passers and tacklers of the ball and also, both are very hard working in the middle of the park.
At the back, the pairing of Bassong and Turner has started to take the shape of a formidable partnership in central defence for Norwich and a consistent run of games have also helped their confidence; they have conceded just two goals in their last four league games including clean sheets against Arsenal and Stoke City. Garrido has been pretty solid at left back while Steven Whittaker has also done well at right-back in the absence of Russell Martin. Overall, the back four likes to keep the shape with both full-backs concentrating more on their defensive duties than going forward and supporting the attackers.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Ruddy; Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, Pilkington; Hoolahan; Holt
Sir Alex Ferguson has a couple of major injury worries going into the game in terms of injuries to their premier strike duo – Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. While the Englishman is struggling with an ankle knock suffered in the game against Aston Villa and is a major doubt for the game, the Dutch master has a thigh strain that forced him out of the midweek international game. However, van Persie is more likely to feature on the weekend; a welcome news for the manager. Other than these two, Shinji Kagawa has not yet recovered with his knee problem while Nemanja Vidic is still out. However, the good news for the manager is that Phil Jones is not far from a first team return while Chris Samlling has also shown no signs of any problem in the two games since his return.
Jonny Evans should return at the back for the visitors after missing the trip to Villa Park with a groin strain and is likely to partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence. Rafael, who has been exceptional this season, will be the right back while Patrice Evra, who has shown good form since the signing of Alex Buttner, will be the left-back as usual. The two full-backs have been very good going forward for the Red Devils this season, however, they will be worried about the number of goals their team has conceded. The strikers have bailed the team out on many occasions this season including against Villa last week but the defenders know that it won’t be long before they are punished for their frailties.
In midfield, Anderson should return to the starting line-up after yet another good showing in the last game after coming on as a substitute. The manager has already indicated about giving the Brazilian more playing time and with him having a full weeks rest, it might be a good time to recall him to the starting line-up. Michael Carrick will play in his usual deep-lying midfield role, but will like to improve upon his poor form he has shown in recent games. Antonio Valencia will be on the right-wing linking up with Rafael while Ashley Young is likely to start on the left flank. The English winger had a poor first half last week, but a good performance for England will give him the much needed confidence.
Up-front, Chicharito is a sure shot starter after his brilliant substitute performance to bail United out against Villa which led to the manager conceding his intentions to start the Mexican at Carrow Road. He will be playing on the shoulder of the last man, stretching the Norwich defence while Robin van Persie will be playing in a slightly deeper role. However, if the Dutchman fails to pass the fitness test, Danny Welbeck will be called to partner Hernandez up-front.
Probable Starting Line up (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Anderson, Young; van Persie, Chicharito
- Norwich have won just one and lost seven of their last eight meetings against Manchester United at Carrow Road in all competitions.
- The Canaries have conceded just two league goals in their last four league games having shipped in sixteen in their first seven.
- Manchester United have conceded first in seven of their eleven league games so far this season.
- The Red Devils have thirteen different players to have scored in the league this season.
Player To Watch Out For
Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)
It’s not often that Sir Alex Ferguson names a player of the starting eleven one week in advance, but such is the form shown by the little Mexican, who has scored seven goals in his last five appearances excluding the second goal (given as an own goal) against Villa. Chicharito’s movement has been fantastic while his link-up play, which left a lot to be desired, has improved remarkably. Although, Norwich defence has looked organized in recent weeks, Hernandez is the sort of player to cause havoc to any back-line and if Bassong and Co. fail to nullify his threat, their team could be in a lot of trouble.
Norwich City 1-3 Manchester United
While Norwich have been sound defensively of late, it is a different cup of tea altogether to contain Manchester United’s strike force. Even in the possible absence of Rooney and RvP, Fergie has the likes of Welbeck and Chicharito up his sleeve. While Grant Holt will cause trouble to the shaky United defence, they won’t have enough in their tank to contain the visitors at the other end of the pitch.