In the after match press conference Paul Lambert gave a little smile when he was reminded that two seasons ago, on the same weekend, Norwich beat Oldham away in a league one fixture. That really does put things into perspective and today fortress Carrow Road was packed out to watch the Canaries play last seasons Premier League Champions Manchester United; and this was no David vs Goliath, we gave them one heck of a game.
I’ve been a season ticket holder for not far off 20 years but have lived in London for the past 5 years but still make it to more or less every home game. When we were in league one, I’d be the first to admit that a Sunday of train engineering works and easily a 6 hour trek would have been tough, but today at my 7.45am wake-up call I was buzzing and despite the result, it was well worth it.
Paul Lambert picked an attacking team with a 4-4-2 formation. Jackson partnering the formidable Holt upfront, Pilkington on the right-wing, Surman on the left and Fox and Johnson in midfield. It was great to see Whitbread back at centre half, partnered by Ward and the veteran Drury at left back and Naughton at right. I was disappointed that Bennett didn’t get a chance to start, as per my last blog I think when we play both Pilkington and Bennett we are at our most dangerous. However, Surman had an absolute gem of a game and Bennett did get a chance to come on in the second half and looked as lively as ever.
In the below table I take a look at some of the key aspects of the game, this was by no means an easy game for the Champions. I’ve highlighted in red where Manchester United come out on top, yellow where Norwich City do and green where both teams are evenly matched:
There were some points in the game where I’m sure we went for 5 minutes without getting the ball, but given that we also had a lot of possession ourselves the 44% / 56% seems right and a testament to how well we played as Manchester United, mainly controlled by Scholes in midfield, pass the ball around extremely well. Every team should have a Paul Scholes, he was untouchable today and really controlled the game for Manchester United and should be in the England squad.
It will probably surprise many who were not at the game that the Canaries had more shots than Manchester United and created more chances, unfortunately the accuracy of Norwich’s shots were not as good a standard as Manchester United’s but reflects Paul Lambert’s strategy to win this game by attacking the visitors, with no fear.
As we have done throughout the season we got more crosses in than the visitors and of higher accuracy. Pilkington, Naughton and Surman can take the credit for this, all 3 of them were superb today. If it wasn’t for the brilliant display of De Gea I think potentially could have come away with something much more.
De Gea, Scholes, Ferdinand and Giggs stood out for Manchester United today but I have to say I was disappointed with their strike force which I think is reflected in the above, they didn’t win any balls in their attacking 3rd. Wellbeck, apart from a few chances at the beginning was very quiet and I thought Hernandez was very poor. If it wasn’t for the old boys Giggs and Scholes and their goals it would have been a very different day for the Champions.
It was Giggs 900th appearance today, so I guess fitting that he should score the 92nd minute winner and I’m sure Match of the Day will be an eulogy to him tonight and not focusing on the fact that Norwich City were very unlucky to drop all 3 points today. On a positive note, what a fantastic goal from Grant Holt. With Rooney and Bent out for England, 10 goals under his belt, including those against Manchester United Chelsea and Liverpool, could the dream come true? Could we see him in an England shirt?
I was gutted to lose to an injury time goal today but at the same time proud of the way we performed. A tough away game at Stoke next week but a team that gives the Champions a good game should make sure Premier League status next season.