Carrow Road, Norwich
December 28, 2013; 15:00 GMT
The fixtures keep coming thick and fast in the festive season and just two days after their respective assignments on Boxing Day, Norwich City are set to host Manchester United at Carrow Road on Saturday afternoon. Last season, in the corresponding fixture, Norwich caused a stunning upset thanks to Antony Pilkington’s headed winner. Manager Chris Hughton will desperately hope for a repeat of the same as the wrong set of results over the weekend might see them dropping down into the relegation zone. Manchester United will look to continue their pursuit of the teams at the top as they look to recover ground lost earlier in the season.
Norwich City are winless in their last 3 games since the impressive victory at West Bromwich Albion. On Boxing Day, they went down at home to fellow relegation strugglers Fulham – a result that may come back to bite them in May. Hughton however will take heart from his team’s ability to bounce back from defeats as City have won the next fixture after their last three defeats before Boxing Day. On paper Norwich with their 35 conceded goals possesses the second worst defence in the league after Fulham, but that statistic is slightly skewed by the fact that 12 of those goals were conceded in two games against Manchester City and Liverpool.
After winning their last five matches in all competition, Manchester United will be looking to notch up six wins in succession for the first time under David Moyes. This indeed has been quite a turnaround since those back to back home defeats against Everton and Newcastle, but Moyes will know that those defeats have ensured that United cannot afford any further slip-ups against the likes of Norwich this season if they are to force their way into the top 4. The manager will hope his team starts better than they did against Hull on Thursday as not every day even Manchester United can claw back two goal deficits.
Team News, Tactics and Lineups
Chris Hughton will be waiting on a late fitness test to see whether midfielder Jonny Howson can come back into the team after missing the last two games with a back injury. Last season’s match winner Pilkington is definitely out as are Elliot Bennet and Alexander Tettey. Michael Turner picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the game against Fulham and will accordingly serve the one match suspension.
Summer signing from Celtic, Gary Hooper is on a hot streak at the moment with 4 goals in his last 6 games. Even luck seems to be on his side as his strike against Fulham took a huge deflection before nestling into the net. Hughton will be relieved that Hooper has found some form as the other two strikers brought in over the summer – Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander have only managed a solitary goal between them.
At the back, Turner, who had appeared in all but one league game this season, will be a big miss to the already fragile backline. Ryan Bennett is the likely replacement and he along with the rest of the back four will have to step up their game if they have to keep a resurgent United out. In case Howson does comeback in the midfield, Leroy Fer may well be the one who will make way from the previous game.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): Ruddy; Whittaker, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Redmond; Hooper, Elmander
David Moyes could definitely have done without Rafael da Silva picking up a groin problem in the game against Hull. As a result, the Brazilian fullback is a major doubt for this one. Marouanne Fellaini is definitely ruled out after his wrist operation while Phil Jones will miss out due to his knee injury and Nani too is sidelined over the entire festive period. Antonio Valencia is suspended after his red card in the dying moments of the game against Hull. On the brighter side, Michael Carrick returned to action at Hull after his injury layoff and Darren Fletcher made his first start in over a year. There is also an outside chance that Robin van Persie may make the bench for the trip to Norwich.
Wayne Rooney undoubtedly has been the man for Manchester United in recent weeks and his importance to the team was underlined in the victory against Hull where he scored a stunner and was involved in the other two goals as well. David Moyes has heaped praise in recent weeks on Rooney’s all round displays as a team player and the player himself seems to be relishing playing again under his first manager. Rooney’s strike partner Danny Welbeck too has been in sparkling form of late as the injury to van Persie has afforded him an opportunity to play as a central striker. With the Dutchman nearing full fitness, Welbeck would know this may be the last opportunity to impress in his favoured role and give Moyes some food for thought.
Carrick, who had been a big miss, will be expected to start in the midfield and control the tempo of the game as he always does. Ryan Giggs, who had been rested in the last two games, may well get the nod to start with the Englishman in the centre of midfield. With Valencia suspended, this might be an opportunity for Kagawa to shine against the team he scored a hattrick last season at Old Trafford. At the back, Chris Smalling will probably fill in the right back slot and skipper Nemanja Vidic may return at the heart of the defence. His partner Jonny Evans had a bit of a shocker during the early exchanges at Hull and will look to revert back to his normal steady self.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Januzaj, Carrick, Giggs, Kagawa; Rooney, Welbeck
- Norwich City have beaten Manchester United twice in their last three visits to Carrow Road in the Premier League.
- Norwich are the only team in the Premier League where a substitute is yet to score this season.
- Manchester United are undefeated away from home in all competitions since the derby defeat to Manchester City in September.
- United have scored at least 2 goals in each of their last 6 away games in the Premier League.
Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)
The teenager has been one of the brightest sparks of the season so far at Manchester United. His pace, trickery and an eye for a goal makes him a nightmare to defend against as West Ham and Hull defenders found out in recent days. His introduction at 2-0 down changed the tempo of the game at KC Stadium as eventually United came back to win. If he starts at Carrow Road, he will be a real handful for the Norwich backline to deal with.
Norwich City 0-2 Manchester United
It may not be an absolute walk in the park for United, but they should be able to get the three points here with something to spare.