Old Trafford, Manchester
Saturday, 19th December 2015
Manchester United host Norwich this gameweek as they look to break a winless streak that has covered five games in all competitions since November 21. United boss Louis van Gaal is under pressure and he couldna t deliver sooner on his current assignment.
Team News, Tactics and Predicted Lineup
There is a sense of despondency among the United supporters with regards to the state of affairs at their favourite football club. The last week has, if at all, exacerbated this feeling. A defeat at Wolfsburg shunted United out of the Champions League before an away loss to AFC Bournemouth heaped insult upon injury.
While United clearly fielded a second string side owing to the plethora of injuries in their camp, Bournemouth hitherto always presented a surmountable challenge. Not so this time as Stanislas and ex-United lad Joshua King netted for the Cherries either side of half time to power their club to a historic win at home. The section of fans asking for LvGa s sacking has been ever growing and this most recent defeat to PL minnows has caused majority of the fans crossing over to the other side.
LVGa s problems have been largely compounded by a spate of injuries that have hit his squad in the run up to Christmas. However, the gaffer had some good news in his press conference on Friday. Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, and Wayne Rooney have been training with the squad for the whole week and seem likely to be available for selection for the home fixture on Saturday.
The Dutchman hinted that Rooney would be back in the starting lineup while Smalling and Herrera would be evaluated before the game. Ashley Young too has returned from injury though he has trained only on Friday and the manager expressed doubts over his involvement in Saturdaya s game. Matteo Darmian and Jesse Lingard continue to remain unavailable for the game as are long term injured players Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia. Schweinsteiger will also be unavailable as he serves the second of his three-game ban.
With injuries to his defensive personnel, it is likely that Louis van Gaal will hand another start to youngster Varela. Phil Jones too is expected to return to the starting lineup after being in and out owing to frequent injuries. Blind will therefore move to the left back position while Smalling partners with Jones in central defense to shield David de Gea.
Schweinsteigera s absence has put a spanner in the works for United as far as central midfield goes. Schneiderlina s return from the niggle that kept him out against Bournemouth is therefore good news and he is likely to partner Michael Carrick in central midfield.
Rooneya s return will see him back in the No. 10 role with Mata moving out to the right to make space for the captain. Depay has shown promise on the left flank and it will be a toss up between him and Young in that position. We expect the Englishman to get the nod ahead of the Dutch winger. Young Martial will be the obvious candidate to lead the attacking lineup and complete the 4-2-3-1 formation that United have deployed regularly this season.
United at home have been very solid defensively this term. They are the only top flight club to not lose at home and have conceded a single stingy goal at Old Trafford. In the process they have also kept nine clean sheets, the most by any team this season so far. Norwich on the other hand have been at the other end of the spectrum.
They have held only one clean sheet and have won a single game on the road. United must exploit the Canariesa leaky defense. Martial with his speed and turn on the ball will be the prime target upfield and it will be up to Rooney, Mata and Young to create the space and supply for the young Frenchman to operate efficiently.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Blind, Jones, Smalling, Varela; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Young, Rooney, Mata; Martial
The Canaries enter the busy Christmas period staring firmly down the barrel. They sit 18th in the league table and have only one win to show on the road. To add to their misery, Old Trafford has not been happy hunting grounds for them as they have sank to 4-0 occasions on all their last three encounters at the venue. Their overall record against their Saturday hosts isna t much better with a single victory in 11 games.
They can however take heart from the fact that this is probably the most toothless United side they have had to play. Uniteda s profligacy and inability to create chances in the final third gives the Canaries a realistic hope of taking points away from Old Trafford.
Norwich are doing better in the injury department when compared to Manchester United as they have only two players a Matt Jarvis and Andre Wisdom a unavailable for selection. Wes Hoolahan is however available after he hobbled off in last weekenda s draw against Everton.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy is in the matchday squad as the club continue an internal investigation into his involvement in an alleged late night incident earlier this week in Norwich city centre, but Declan Rudd is expected to again be first choice at Old Trafford.
Robbie Brady is another player who could be important to Norwicha s hopes. The ex-United youngster has been in terrific form for club and country this season and would be eager to emulate Joshua King from last week to thwart the attempts of his former club to win the game.
Predicted Lineup (4-4-1-1): Rudd; Olsson, Bassong, Bennett, Martin; Brady, Tettey, Dorrans, Howson; Hoolahan, Jerome
Key Match Points
- Manchester United have not lost a single game this season at home, the only top flight side to still hold that record.
- United have kept the most number of clean sheets (9) so far while Norwich have the least (1).
- Norwich have never won at Old Trafford, sinking to 0-4 defeats in all 3 instances. They have defeated United only once in 11 games in all competitions.
- Norwich City have won just one of their last 19 Barclays Premier League away games (W1 D5 L13).
Players to watch out for
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Uniteda s captain is currently under tremendous pressure as he seems to have hit a wall as far as his performance is concerned. It is not the first time Rooney is not scoring goals but even in the absence of goals he would influence games by his presence and work rate. This season the work rate is present but the influence is absent and it has in part contributed to the lack of bite for Manchester United up front and his own drought of goals.
If Rooney plays on Saturday, it will be his 500th appearance for the club, a feat reached only nine times previously, as he joins the hallowed company of United legends like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Neville. There could not be a better time or occasion to return to his scoring form for the talismanic forward.
Robbie Brady (Norwich City)
Last weekend an ex-United player, Joshua King thwarted Uniteda s attempts to win league points when he scored for AFC Bournemouth. This week another ex-United player, Robbie Brady, gets his chance. He has featured in every game for the Canaries this season and his recent form for both club and country marks him as a serious threat to United taking full points from this game.
Manchester United 2-0 Norwich City
Manchester United desperately need a win and Norwich at home presents as fine an opportunity as any to do so. The pressure on van Gaal is mounting and they have already slipped six points behind league toppers Leicester as they sit in fourth with Spurs snapping at their heels. Norwich doesna t provide a significant scoring threat as such especially in the face of a pretty solid United defensive act. It will be up to the boys up front to deliver the goods and the win to their beleaguered club and manager.