Another weekend, another opportunity for Manchester United to defend as if a team of highly paid international stars has been transformed into a cohort of overweight, talent-light, Sunday League cloggers. It’s a Christmas miracle – of the pint-or-ten-too-many down the Dog and Duck the night previous, variety. Indeed, United’s “Achilles’ heel,” as Ferguson put it on Friday, threatens to undermine United’s title challenge.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s team may well have scored more than its rivals this season, but 16 goals conceded equals that of Liverpool, in 13th place; a genuine concern that, for all the Reds’ entertaining attacking play this season, has become the Scot’s focus.
Ferguson’s team visits Norwich City this weekend – the scene, last season, of a hugely complacent performance in which Ryan Giggs, in his 900th game for the club, saved the Reds’ blushes at the death. Yet, the theme may not always run so. Despite securing 16 points from losing positions this season there can be no guarantee that United’s fortune will hold in the future.
“Certainly after last Saturday’s experience we don’t want to lose two goals and be having to fight back all the time,” said Ferguson.
“That’s certainly an Achilles’ heel. You actually don’t expect it. You don’t expect to be behind by two goals. That’s the part that you always find difficult. It’s not that we underestimate anyone – it’s just that we don’t expect a Manchester United team to be behind. You’ve got to go into games believing you’re going to be two goals ahead rather than two behind.
“The fact we’ve got players who can change the course of the game is certainly a big advantage to us. When Chicharito came on last week the game changed completely. But it won’t happen all the time. It’s not definite that you’ll come back from 2-0 down. And this is the area we are going to improve on. We are going to defend better.”
Still, says Ferguson, frequent comebacks from losing positions this season has engendered a bold spirit in United’s dressing room. On Saturday Javier Hernández’ brace maintained the Reds’ two point Premier League lead, with United throwing caution to the wind in the second half at Villa Park. It has become the season’s theme; a stark contrast to the previous campaign’s conservatism.
“It does feel different,” admitted the 70-year-old Scot.
“I think the dressing room is different too. When you get these late goals and when you’ve come from behind in particular, it does make an impact on the dressing room. There is more excitement and we’ve experienced that many times. It’s a credit to the character of the club that we can do that.”
If United is to win Saturday tea-time, whether from out in front or otherwise, Ferguson’s men may have to do so without Wayne Rooney, who missed England’s loss in Sweden during the week. However, top goalscorer Robin van Persie is fit and should start alongside in-form Hernández. The Mexican has scored eight from just six starts and seven appearances off the bench this season.
Meanwhile, Chris Smalling may continue in central defence with Jonny Evans still struggling, while youngster Phil Jones will not make the trip to East Anglia, but should return in midweek. Anders Lindegaard is sidelined after suffering injury with Denmark during last week’s internationals.
“We’ve still got some doubts about Wayne and Jonny Evans,” said Ferguson.
“I think Robin should be fit. We’ll see what they are like today but there is a doubt. Phil Jones has been training all week. We will take him to Turkey [to play Galatasaray in the Champions League] with us. He’ll get part of it there, which is a good start for him.”
Elsewhere Ferguson must decide whether to stick with Paul Scholes, whose performance in victory over Villa last weekend showed up the veteran’s 38 years far more than was comfortable. Tom Cleverley and Anderson stand by for Ferguson’s call should Scholes be afforded another rest.
One player unlikely to start, however, is goalscoring England international Danny Welbeck, who has been largely frozen out of the side this season. Following a highly promising campaign in 2011-12 the 21-year-old Longsight-born striker has suffered for van Persie’s arrival at Old Trafford.
Yet, says Ferguson, Welbeck’s time will come despite heated competition for striking berths at Old Trafford.
“What we have to try and do is alternate selections so that Danny feels he is making a contribution,” admits Ferguson.
“At the moment, we have tended to play him wide left, which is maybe a little bit unfair to him. I think he’s capable of playing there. He is a threat coming in off the wing and he has done that many times. But I think he is a natural centre-forward.
“Danny’s best form has actually been with England. He has shown with his form with England that he can be a real asset to us through the middle. That will come for him.”
Meanwhile, Norwich has recovered from a poor start to the campaign to find a modicum of form in recent weeks. Chris Hughton’s side is unbeaten in five matches, and secured a rare victory over Arsenal a fortnight ago.
Hughton has midfielder Alex Tettey available again in a fully fit squad. And with the Reds’ defence anything but secure this season the Canaries will begin the game with a genuine sense of confidence.
“They are such a quality team, it is difficult to get points against them,” said Hughton. “You know you have to either have that little bit of fortune against them or you have to play very well.
“But it is possible.”
Should United defend with the same sense of calamity as in recent weeks that is a sentiment with which Sir Alex will surely concur.
Norwich City v Manchester United – Premier League, Carrow Road – Saturday 17 November 2012, 5.30pm
Norwich (4-4-2): Ruddy; Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Johnson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Tettey; Snodgrass, Holt. Subs from: Bunn, Tierney, R Bennett, Howson, E Bennett, Jackson, Morison.
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra; Cleverley, Carrick; Valencia, van Persie, Young; Hernández. Subs from: Johnstone, Wootton, Büttner, Giggs, Powell, Anderson, Scholes, Fletcher, Nani, Welbeck, Rooney.
Referee: A Taylor
Assistants: R West, P Bankes
Fourth Official: N Swarbrick
Head to Head
Last 10: Norwich 1, United 8, Draw 1
Overall: Norwich 10, United 30, Draw 12
- Norwich played out a scoreless draw with Reading last weekend – the Canaries have conceded just one goal in the last four games;
- Sebastian Bassong has often divided opinion, but looks close to his best at Norwich – the defender made eight clearances against Reading, the joint second highest by a player in a single match this season;
- Leon Barnett has been instrumental to Norwich’s defensive performances, winning eight of 15 attempted tackles and making 10 clearances, 35 interceptions and 3 blocks this season;
- Goalkeeper John Ruddy continues to impress this season – the England international is the fifth busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League so far, making 55 saves;
- Ruddy has conceded 18 goals, averaging 3.05 saves per goal conceded;
- Wesley Hoolahan topped the chart for ground covered against Reading with 6.77 miles, the third highest by a Norwich player all season;
- Rafael da Silva has come of age in an attacking sense this season, completing 241 passes in his opponent’s half, second only to Leighton Baines among defenders in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index;
- However, Rafael has come away with the ball in just 57 per cent of 30 tackles attempted this season, although 17 tackles won is the highest among his United peers;
- If Rafael’s tackling is inconsistent, United’s aerial defence isn’t – Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evan are in the top 20 for clearances this season – only Vincent Kompany and Phil Jagielka feature in the top 20 from other sides in the top four;
- Michael Carrick has quietly dictated play for United – the midfielder made 92 passes in his opponent’s half against Villa, which is the most by a player in a single game this season;
- Last season United averaged 16 crosses per game, with 238 passes completed in the opponent’s half – this season United has averaged 11 crosses per game, with 256 passes completed in the opponent’s half.
91 thoughts on “Preview: Norwich City v United”
It’s gonna be 3-2 again, just know it
Welbeck has played plenty of games this season – we’ve played 17 and he’s started 8 and come on in 5. We’re missing him up front though – RVP is brilliant, but Welbeck/Rooney partnership was good at keeping and winning the ball back. More work for our CMs without them.
Without Rooney our midfield is going to have a much harder job tomorrow – no way van Persie does as much work as a 10. If he can’t score from the deeper role I think we could lose this one 1-0.
Away to Norwich is a struggle always. The way we’ve been playing, it definately will be.
I hope that ferguson has finally conquered his sentimental allegiance to scholes. As we’ve seen on many occasions his influence can be smothered by the attentions of high octane, pressing midfields and its probably no coincidence that he was absent for United’s best performances of the season so far (Newcastle, Chelsea). While his long range passing can still be sublime, it often reduces us to metronomic, sideways passing. I think the snappier, more economical style of Cleverley (though still worthy of improvement) probably better serves the dynamic of the team.
I reckon we will win 2-1.
De Gea out after having his wisdom teeth removed this week
Raf Smalling Rio Evra
Valencia Carrick Giggs Young
Jones Anderson Cleverley Scholes Fletcher Welbeck
4 CMs on the bench and one starting
Giggs being rewarded for his last minute winner at Norwich last season maybe
Only one striker on the bench leaves me a bit worried n all
disappointing – though not surprising – selection. Yet again Ferguson passes up the opportunity to reinvigorate the midfield. You wonder whether the likes of Cleverley / Anderson have a future at the club when Ferguson can’t entrust them with a place in this starting 11. The customary lack of mobility / defensive presence in midfield, together with Giggs’s readiness to surrender possession will alarming ease, will leave us vulnerable to counter-attacks. Yet again, our success will turn on the ability of the front pair to bail us out. Tight game again.
What does Anderson have to do to get a start?
Apart from eat less.
Judging by the team he picked, I take it Fergie doesn’t know what the City score was. So much for goal difference.
It’d be nice for one of our wide men to turn up today
It’s time to stop conceding so many goals because it’s those that are ruining our goal difference
A clean sheet would be very nice but probably out of the question
The ref is from Altrincham haha.
Did he board the team bus?
if only one of our wingers could cross the bloody ball
Am i being too harsh too soon or are Giggs and Young playing badly?
don’t think giggs has done much wrong so far tbh
Valencia is gash.
Valencia’s crossing has been poor.
Edit- hi Brian.
Young is absolute shite.. yeah Nani might give the ball away, but at lease he takes on players.. how many times has that donkey had the ball on the wing, only to pass it the whole way back to the CB?
He’s one most one footed player I have ever seen. Watch him…
So is young. That assist in the England game mid-week was probably the first time I ever saw him use his left foot.
This game has been poor.
We need more tempo…amongs many other things we need (like accurate passing)…
with no rooney nani sholdve played
He’s injured isn’t he? Pulled hamstring.
Agreed, I’d rather have Nani over TV and Young any day.
We actually look quite solid. Mind you Grand Holt is an abomination of a human being. Apart from the near post chance which he missed, he’s just fouled and moaned.
We could do with Clev on to unpick their defence. Giggs has landed a couple of dangerous balls into the box but that’s it. We’re too reliant on Valencia who hasn’t put a single intelligent cross into the box so far.
Need to bring on a CM for a winger (or two)
Our midfield has created Very little. 2 good lobbed passes. Need to Inspiration from someone FAST…
That was so predictable. Changes now ffs.
Serves us right for picking such a bad midfield.
Please take Giggs off
dreadful performance all round – we look absolutely hopeless without Rooney no creativity at all
Oh for fuck sake fergie, what the fuck is scholes going to do to our static midfield.
Seriously.. Hernandez and Valencia off.. leaving YOUNG and GIGGS on?!
Is he taking Hernandez off so he can bring him in 10 minutes time?
Giggs, Scholes and Young on the pitch.. we’re not going to win today.. lucky to get a draw at this point
I can understand subbing Valencia on – he has been horrid
I dont understand taking Hernandez off and keeping Young on…
Come on United ffs.
When will the manager stop relying on pensioners?
This is terrible.
Look at pur wingers. Young is so shit, it makes me cry.
Giggs is a legend. But i think he has misplaced about 99% of his forward passes tonight….Lets hope he comes upwith one more beauty that.eads to a goal…
woeful so far still no urgency
Bring on Anderson when the game is lost. I despair.
From team selection to substitutions disastrous day for Fergie
Shite team selection.. How can he not be play 1 of anderson or cleverly? and Young and valancia were both pish…Strikers were given absolutely nothing for most of the game..
to be honest we’ve been incredible lucky up to this point, it was only a matter of time before we got caught out.
We were just poor going forward. Abject poor. ALL our midfield was incredibly poor. We hardly created ANY chances…
deserved what we got. Too many shite players and no Rooney to carry them. Fucking points win the League not goal difference and we’ve dropped too many too early
We always play like that without Rooney
What a total set of shit. Ferguson just doesn’t bloody learn does he. Taking Giggs and Scholes out of the fucking retirement home for sentimentality reasons just doesn’t work.
It pisses me off so much, Scholes and Giggs have been fantastic for us but it’s over. Ferguson needs to get a grip and say goodbye to them.
Rooney a big miss. Fergie got it wrong with the line-up, and his changes did very little.
This one goes down as a Fergie fuck up.
Unlike other games it never looked like a comeback was on the cards. We were too shit, too slow, wrong tactics & wrong personel.
Giggs should never have started in the middle FFS. The game needed a Clev or an Ando to unlock their defence. There’s no need to leave one of those players on the bench when they’re in form, playing well, and so obviously what the game needed.
3 in 12 is a bit fucking shit. They really need to sort it out.
Also City going top on points and goal difference means the momentum is with them now.
Shows the poor quality we have through most of the side. Very little attacking flair….
Blatantly obvious that at some we point wouldn’t be able to comeback, that’s what we get for going behind in nearly every match this season. Didn’t deserve a single point from that, such a stale performance.
SAF always makes these strange team selections when we least expect it and we always pay. Iam waiting to hear his excuses this time. He will probably say Norwich is a great team and difficult to beat.
Going behind so often seems to have nurtured a complacency in the team.
When will Fergie learn to stop picking shit teams unnecessarily?
I really wish we had a young winger who could replace the shit we have.
From the moment I saw the side Sir Alex had picked, I knew the match would suck as a spectacle, and it did. I commented on a mate’s FB page that the Canaries could win the match if they would wait until after the 75th minute to score, because United were not going to attack with any pace, urgency, or real intent until they went behind. Fortunately for Norwich, Sir Alex got his substitutions all wrong, and the resulting side was incapable of producing much in the way of pace or real intent.
We need three players. 1) a genuine x-factor type on left wing; 2) a real leader in central midfield, 3) a center back.
RVP is clearly a match winner, but he needs good service.
you win fuck all with such a shite midfield it’s that simple.
No need to panic really. Jones and Smalling back, hopefully Evans soon as well. Kagawa can’t be too far off and Rooney will be back for next weekend. Now we have two dead rubbers and QPR, West Ham and Reading to come before City. Really no point blaming Scholes and Giggs. When used properly they can both still be effective.
Biggest disappointment this season has been our wingers. Welbeck/Rooney/Kagawa/Cleverley/Anderson have all played on the wing before and all deserve the game time more.
The worrying thing is that you would think that the manager would learn from past matches and not under-estimate the opposition.
How long ago was the Tottenham game?
If we carry on like this, we can forget about the title. City have the momentum right now and we’ve already lost 3 games – 2 defeats which were self-inflicted due to poor team selections.
It’s 2012 and, yet, we’re picking one-dimensional teams suited to the 1990s.
Welbeck again proved that he’s going to be nothing but shit.
Yes, but using them properly involves having both of them in tracksuits with their initials stitched on them. They should be doing for United what Gary Neville is doing for England.
Neither should be part of a two man mid. Scholes still excellent if used behind two more energetic CMs as a deep lying playmaker. Giggs as a no. 10, although mostly from the bench at this stage of his career.
What has happened to Valencia? He can’t buy a good cross at the moment.
Rob Diablo @ 9:42: “using them properly involves having both of them in tracksuits with their initials stitched on them. They should be doing for United what Gary Neville is doing for England.”
What would you suggest doing with Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia ? No Nani-Bashing tonight, I guess.
SAF’s desire to persist with a fairly rigid 4-4-2 is classic ostrich-like behaviour; he just can’t see that it doesn’t work with one-footed wingers whose play is so predictable.
He hasn’t persisted with 442 though, he’s played the diamond quite a lot
442 would have worked against Norwich, just not with Giggs and Young and other knobs
Not sure 442 will work for us without Rooney in the two. Every time we have played without a 10 this season we haven’t created much in attack. I thought RVP would be a 10 today, but it was pretty much a flat two, so all of our play was either directed to the wings, or hopeful balls from Giggs.
Whatever formation we play, we need someone in the hole. Our wingers have been shit, but that has been highlighted because we’ve stopped creating anything from the middle. Against Norwich, they were as shit as the rest of our mid/attack.
I blame the title from Friday’s podcast, it was tempting fate!
Nani didn’t play, so I cannot comment on his performance, and I won’t pretend to know that had he played, he would have sucked, because I don’t know that. What I do know is that he has been terribly inconsistent so far this season, and his name did not spring to mind when I was wondering who Sir Alex could bring on to change the game, and not just because he wasn’t on the sub’s bench.
As for the two wingers who did play: we should never have bought another right-footed left winger, and I would advocate selling him to whomever is stupid enough to buy him in January. I don’t understand Valencia’s decline. Perhaps it is as simple as having been sussed out by the opposition as a purely one-footed player, but I think there is more to the story than that. When Garrido received the ball out wide on the left and immediately put in the cross that resulted in a goal, I thought, “if that had been Valencia, he would have stopped, thrown a few fakes at the defender, dribbled around a bit, and basically done everything necessary to give Norwich time to get back to defend in numbers.”
Results-wise, United have been overachieving, getting by on the efforts of the few real stars we possess as well as the respect other sides have for United’s reputation. Slowly but surely, sides are figuring out that, if you are willing to defend and can take the one or two chances to score on the counter that will inevitably come their way, it is possible to beat United.
It’s axiomatic for Sir Alex: two from Carrick, Giggs and Scholes in midfield; the world is flat, the moon is made of green cheese, and four plus four plus two sometimes equals twelve and sometimes equals nine, depending on the weather.
Lackluster performance. I cannot think of a single reason why Fergie would start with Giggs over a fit Ando or Cleverley. And Young staying on the pitch was just bizarre. He was the embodiment of wank for the entire match.
For the first time in a number of years I didn’t feel that annoyed when we lost. It’s a sad state of affairs but we look so devoid of any creative play. It didn’t help that we finished on the same points as Man City last season, gave Fergie false belief.
Our biggest weakness isn’t on the pitch… it’s the manager.
Fucking hilarious how shit we are! What a joke!
Fergie’s rotation always hurts us at some point, but always seems to pay off towards the end of the season.
Maybe we are thinking about this all wrong: Fergie can’t pick a team to play with pace because when the ball moves at speed his old eyes and brain are too addled to follow it.
Damian Garside @ 06:53: “It’s axiomatic for Sir Alex: two from Carrick, Giggs and Scholes in midfield”
As of right now – November 18, 2012 – that’s the sorry state of affairs with TheLads.
Whether this is because SAF can’t bear to jettison his old-stagers or because he doesn’t trust the young pretenders, it’s hard to watch a lot of these matches with any joy. SAF has created a team to “grind out” results in the majority of matches. It works – most of the time – BUT it’s really wasting the attacking talents of RVP, Chicharito, Nani, and TheWayneBoy as well as KagawaBunga.
When I looked at the fixture list, I reckoned that AstonVilla and Norwich, followed by QPR, Reading and West Ham, should have yielded 15 points so that UTD would come into the M/C derby at the EmptiHat on December 8th in first place with a huge goal difference. That’s not going to happen and I reckon that these pussilanimous selections have handed the momentum over to the noisy neighbours.
SAF made a similar miscalculation last year in the first round of the CL; he’s beginning to lose his grip. Time for OGS to take over the reins.
Ferguson is clearly hanging onto the past as a form of security. The continual use of 442 , as well as player combinations that worked well several years ago, but arent effective now ie Giggs and Carrick in a two man midfield, highlight this. The purchase of RVP was an early leaving present, and the last roll of the dice.
Mourinho, Moyes and Solskjaer favourites to replace him, perhaps one of the first two with Solskjaer as assistant. The change will come at the end of next season at the latest.
Disagree entirely, the squad is inferior to Chelsea and Man City, but as usual some people are going out of their way to outdo each other in terms of moaning.
It’s an over reaction to a defeat, we are still roughly were we wanted to be in the league this season.
The voice of mediocrity:surprising how plausible it can sound.
I guess that depends on whether one would rather look at the standings than actually watch the football being played. Much of the time, United are ponderous, predictable, and lacking in invention, so I can understand why some would prefer to dwell on the standings, but I care more about the matches I’m watching.
RobDiablo @ 6:59: “Much of the time, United are ponderous, predictable, and lacking in invention”
I totally agree with that. Not much joy in watching TheLads unless it is in one of those “miraculous” comebacks.
Mostly, it’s sideways, sideways, sideways and then a long ping to the wing which then doesn’t result in a quick change of direction into the danger-area but, too often, a moment (or three) to check before losing all momentum.
It’s the lost momentum that results in lost initiative and so back to sideways, sideways……
This “style” of play is making me into a glass-half-full kinda guy.
Don’t see the need to rotate at this stage of the season. We into the next phase of the CL and Fergie just wants to tinker for the sake of it.
There’s a complacency that’s been creeping in for at least a couple of years now. The fact that we’ve had quality in forward areas, added to the quality of the premiership deteriorating, has papered over cracks for a long time. We’ve dug ourselves out of holes in the league, but when we’ve come up against even moderate quality, mostly in europe, we come short. Now, we tend to come up short against any side who’s willing to really put the hard yards in from first whistle to last.
And despite what people say, I have to question whether Fergie has lost some of his spark. Or maybe some of his marbles. Or maybe both.
This side just doesn’t seem to have the desire and/or players to do the ugly side of the game well enough. I mean, for fucks sake the manager has credited Norwich for winning because they worked hard….really? Fuck me. Is it too much to expect our own players to work hard?? Far too often they look like they don’t give a shit and that the fire has gone.
Both are valid points.
At the end the title is about standings. And we are a point below 1st in standings, so all in all its not doom and gloom yet. This can be down to us being good or other teams not hitting top gear yet or pure dumb luck, but who cares. We are 2nd, we are still in the title race despite our calamitous defending so let’s not over react
However, our performance at norwich was simply horrid. Devoid of creativity, cant cross, rarely created chances, and overall horrid decision making from the manager. Giggs to me was horrible all game except for one beautfiul lofted pass, and I fail to understand why he wasnt subbed. Young did better once switched to right wing, why hasnt this happen before? Our tempo was very very slow..Why couldnt we change this..
Anyways, The game was horrid so it pretty much deserves a good rant!
We already have two RWs and Young managed 6 goals/7 assists playing exclusively on the left last season. It’s not that he can’t play LW, it’s just like our other wingers, he’s not on form (to be fair he has just returned from injury).
Yes, both views are valid. It is not a question of either/or as much as of prioritizing based on a correct understanding of cause and effect. Being one point out of first place does not automatically (and retroactively) raise the quality of the football being played on the pitch, but in noting the lackluster football they play all too often these days, one can see a clear indicator that United will not finish top of the table this season (barring catastrophic injuries, scandal with points deducted, or some other kind of meltdown at City and Cheatski). I hope United prove me wrong, but, at present, I see no reason to expect it.
Have a feeling we may drop more points before the City game. But AF should have worked on finding a number ofidfield combos that worked and he could vary his options and gameplan against City, who, as reigning champs are the team to beat (and threatening to become our nemesis). Now on the day of the City clash — which could be hugely important — apart from the obvious fan pride issue — AF will have to choose between a relatively or completely intros and untested combo, or the usual Carrick plus veteran: that we know Toure wil eat for breakfast. We need to play City with unbelievable pace and constant switching of lines of attack: not be a crab that hasn’t got a shell.