With eight points from six games, sat ninth in the table, Norwich will have gone into their game at Old Trafford with a sense assuredness. After all, boring mid-table mediocrity would go down as one of the club’s greatest successes in decades. Still, away to a Manchester United team who were having one of their best ever Premier League starts, taking anything from the match was a ludicrous thought for the Canaries.
As most expected, when the final whistle blew, United’s points tally increased to 19 and Norwich’s didn’t change. The score sheet will show a comfortable home win for the defending champions against the newcomers, fighting for their lives.
History will not show the look of fury on Alex Ferguson’s face as he moved from his comfortable, elevated, Formula One race driver’s seat to the touchline, whilst watching Norwich devour his defence. Fans who didn’t see the match will not be aware of the excruciating frustration painted on Paul Lambert’s face as he hopped from one foot to the other each time a seemingly simple Norwich attempt on goal was squandered.
Norwich aren’t the first team to create chances against Manchester United this season. In fact, West Brom gave Fergie’s men a good game on the opening day of the season. The real challenge, when you’re facing England’s best is, being able to turn their defence around; are your attacking players creative enough to find the holes in United’s defence and exploit them enough times to compete in the game? Can you create clear-cut goal scoring opportunities?
Significantly more so than it was for Shane Long and the rest of West Brom’s attacking line on game day one, the answer for Norwich at Old Trafford was a resounding “yes”.
Bennett’s pace, Morrison’s aggression, Pilkington’s pressure, Jackson’s eye for goal. Four, five, six attacks that all ended in the United penalty box and none of which could punish a very beatable United defence.
As always, we look to the positives; Lambert will be thrilled that his team have gone to another giant opponent and competed admirably, just as they did away at Chelsea. But this season’s problem for Norwich was not likely to be their ability to compete, to fight or to show determination. The real problem, as Paul Merson commented after the game on Sky Sports last week, is the immediate need for more goals.
The search for an obvious solution to the goal drought will continue this week as Norwich return to Carrow Road to face Swansea. Steve Morrison has been receiving credit from all kinds of sources and was rewarded for his efforts leading the city frontline with a starting place for Wales against Bulgaria. Morrison will feel harshly treated if he should lose his starting position in the City team on Saturday, but with Grant Holt still sitting on the bench, Lambert could yet change things up once more.
We’re in need of a natural goal scorer, someone to convert the clear-cut chances that we’re creating. In Grant Holt, we have just that in a player who must be itching to get back into the team.
While Morrison has a phenomenal work ethic, Holt also led the team with hard work and desire. Morrison does offer a half a yard of pace that Holt cannot put forward. Both players have a similar number of games under their belt this season and just the one goal to show for it. The big decision will probably come down to two things; Morrison has been in the slightly better form of late and he has also had the international game with Wales to keep him sharp during the international break. Holt on the other hand has played just 26 minutes out of the last three games, in over a month since Sept. 11. When you consider that against the 334 minutes played by Morrison for club and country, Morrison would appear to be the obvious choice.
Regardless of any statistic, we can rest assured that Lambert will pick the players that he thinks can do the job for that particular match, regardless of form or public opinion. We should be thankful that we have a manager with the intuition to make those game day judgment calls.
Holt or Morrison, the end result has to be three points. Swansea have had a similarly strong start to the season and are building an equally strong reputation as a good football team who can hang with the best in this league. While it is still early days, this is an absolutely must-win game for the Canaries. With so many excellent teams in this league, we have to be able to take three points from teams like Swansea, especially when we're at home and I am confident that we will do just that.
||Post your comment