Billed as a managerial match-up that would be seen as a dystopia future on ‘Football Manager’ a fortnight ago, Ryan Giggs and Neil Adams will be in charge of Manchester United and Norwich City respectively, ahead of their clash this weekend.
Well, it was mooted that David Moyes could see his time at Manchester United end earlier than anticipated – well to him anyway – but not many would have thought the Glazers would play their hand before the end of the season. The poor performance against Everton last weekend was the last straw, as problems persisted both on and off the pitch, despite scoring 4 goals in their previous 2 games before their trip to Merseyside. A mess that will continue into the summer until a new manager comes in and puts his mark on the squad, the classiness always spouted that Manchester United possess has been severely tested this week with how the news was played out.
The battling performance against Liverpool last week, especially after going 0-2 behind, was what Norwich fans longed for all season and saw the sacking of Hughton as justified. Unfortunately though, his sacking seems to have come too late despite the improvements already on show. With just 3 games remaining until the end of the season, Norwich sit 2 points clear of Fulham and Cardiff and 3 points above a rejuvenated Sunderland side who also have a game in hand. The run-in that Norwich face has seen them been written off by nearly everyone bar Neil Adams, the players and those surrounding the club, but their form of 5 defeats in 6 matches and collecting only 7 points out of a possible 30.
After struggling initially since his transfer from Chelsea in January due to Moyes trying to fit all of his best players in unsuccessfully, Mata had finally started to find his feet in recent weeks and a more attacking line-up at the weekend could help him thrive.
The quick and fluent attacking proved a problem for Norwich last weekend against Liverpool and if Mata can reach the level of performance that he showed during his time at Chelsea then he will play a major part for United. Mata has managed to start gelling with his teammates and the build-up play to his 2 goals against Newcastle, as well as his assist, showed that he was returning to his best form.
The fight back that was displayed in the second half on Sunday was helped by the tactical change of letting Howson play further up the pitch. Often played deeper to accommodate others, the more advanced role is Howson’s best position and the link-up around Liverpool box helped to get Norwich back into the game – 19 out of his 24 attacking passes were completed – alongside his movement into space which was desperately missing from Norwich’s play in the first half.
Norwich won’t expect to have as much of the ball as United, so the passing of Jonny Howson will be important. Normally the player who pulls the strings for the Norfolk club, the former Leeds midfielder has a passing accuracy of 85% and his composure will important if Norwich are to get anything out of the match.
- Manchester United have never lost to Norwich at Old Trafford in the Premier League and won both matches since the Canaries were promoted to the top flight 3 seasons ago – 4-0 (12/13) and 2-0 (11/12).
- United have taken only 7 points from a possible 39 from the top-8 in the Premier League this season.
- An average of 1.4 goals scored by Manchester United at Old Trafford is an example of one of the many problems that have wrecked their season.
- In the last two seasons, Norwich have only won 4 league games away from home in 36 matches.
- Despite scoring 2 goals against Liverpool last weekend, Norwich have the joint worst attack in the league this season (28).
Manchester United have no new injury concerns, but Van Persie, Rafael, and Evra will continue to miss out.
Elliot Bennett could be in contention for a return to the squad after several 90 minutes appearances for the Under-21 side. Other than that, Norwich have no other injury concerns.
The attitude that the Manchester United players will show on Saturday is hard to predict; either they play to their capabilities that weren’t displayed under Moyes or the bad atmosphere around the club continue with players looking uninterested. The former is more likely – which says a lot about the power of players in modern football – and, despite playing a Norwich side fighting for their lives who nearly claimed a draw against Liverpool, United will come away with a victory.
Manchester United 3 Norwich City 1