I like it when Norwich City come to Old Trafford. For two reasons. One of them is that I like seeing (most) founder members of the Premier League, who’ve fallen by the way side, bounce back in to the big time. The second is that I started collecting Panini football stickers in 1984, and I’d the nostalgic part of me would love the league to be a re-creation of that sticker album re-create that album…albeit with two teams missing.
But this Saturday see’s Paul Lambert’s ‘Canaries’ travel north to the Theatre of Dreams after a dream couple of seasons, which have seen the lows of the pits of League One, to arriving in Manchester ninth in the Premiership after six games.
Game seven sees our first 3pm kick off on a Saturday, and after a rollercoaster of a game on Tuesday against Basel, it’ll be nice to resort back to something that – albeit a rariety – reflects ‘normal’
Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Jonny Evans are all back in contention for the game, being declared fit after a short time on the sidelines. Still missing are Vidic, Cleverley and Chris Smalling – meaning that the same back line that featured against Basel is likely to take the field. Shaky at times in that one, the question is are Norwich City as capable as the Swiss champions at getting at is?
Norwich have their own players missing though. Striker James Vaughan has had knee surgery and is ruled out for a few months, and Ritchie De Laet – on loan at Norwich from United – is available under the terms of the loan. Zak Whitbread, Elliott Ward and Dani Ayala all miss out through injury too.
I can see a midfield of Young, Fletcher, Anderson and Nani lining up behind Chicharito and Rooney for the reds, as a reaction is on the cards from the disappointing 3-3 draw with Basel midweek.
A few weeks ago, this would have been classed as a dead-cert win for United, but after two consecutive draws, people are less inclined to be so presumptious on a win. Confidence in the returning players will bolster the team, and make for a more solid, fluid unit than we had last week. And add to that the ever growing performances of De Gea, meaning that the defence are able to put faith in him a little bit more week by week.
But the Canaries are flying (yes, that pun WAS intended!) with a confidence of their own, and Delia will have been on the sherry more times than not already this season.
They visit us looking to make it three wins on the bounce – their impressive defeat of Sunderland last week meant they’d won back to back Premiership matches for the first time since 2005. That same season, they beat us at Carrow Road 2-0 and were perhaps not as good a team as they are now.
We spoke to Norwich City supporter Olivia Newstead about her team, and wondered what it’s like being a supporter of theirs right now…
“From the bottom of division 1 to 9th in the premiership in a little over two seasons has been an amazing journey and we’ve loved every minute of it. Losing 7-1 against colchester was the best thing that happened to the club, it separated those who were there for money and those who were there for pride. Think as a long term norwich fan you kind of expect the rough with the smooth and thats why I love being a supporter, we never make things easy on ourselves!
To be pleased to be ninth in the Premier League is an understatement. We’ve been written off by everyone since the day we won promotion last season. Equally though its early days, theres a long way to go but every point we win is vital and helps build the teams’ confidence.”
Norwich will be full of cofidence now, and rightly so. Maybe that’ll be an advantage for United, although do they have a manager who’ll get his men to do the correct job on Saturday?
Olivia said: “Lambert is a god in Norwich…he’s quiet but respected by the players, when he speaks they listen and he expects and gets 110%. That sort of thing was shown last season with all the goals in injury time. He has turned the team around and this season brought in a lot of unknown names on a smaller budget than most clubs that are playing some great football and holding their own against much bigger teams.”
A manager who encourages positive and attacking football, Lambert is well respected by his fellow managers, and fans up and down the land have all of a sudden taken notice of him. Olivia added “Hoolihan down the middle supporting the strikers, plus Bennett and Pilkington are a threat on the wings. They could be the ones to cause United problems on Saturday. My heart says Norwich will win 3-1, but my head says the same scoreline in United’s favour”
And we at Red Flag Flying High are inclined to agree with the second half of that prediction!
Wherever you’re watching it, enjoy the game.