After the disappointing Champions League fixture midweek that saw United throw away their 2-0 lead only for Ashley Young to save face and earn United a point on his home debut in the competition, United host Premier League newboys Norwich at 3pm this afternoon. Domestically, United have made their best start to the season in 25 years, with the draw against Stoke last weekend the first dropped points of the season. SAF accurately described our football as ‘cavalier’ thus far this season, with United keeping only 3 clean sheets in 10 games since Vidic was sidelined. The quickly rising stock of Smalling and Jones may have made us forget we are missing a Serbian brick wall in defence but with Vidic not fit to turn this afternoon, Jonny Evans will likely partner Jones again in the middle after SAF confirmed he was passed fit to play. Fabio and Ferdinand showed us all how they have suffered from the lack of game time as they both put in average performances midweek so I don’t expect either to start today but with Smalling suffering from a groin injury, we find ourselves a bit light at the back, so SAF might give Rio a chance to prove his fitness and give Jones another run out at right back.
SAF confirmed that Tom Cleverley isn’t fit to return yet which is leaving a gap United are struggling to fill. In my opinion, he was the heartbeat of United’s fluid football. Anderson has been invisible in recent games where he has been partnered by Fletcher or Carrick instead of Cleverley. However, SAF has openly stated that United need to tighten up defensively if we are to retain the title, so unfortunately I think Tom has a battle on his hands if he is to regain a starting berth after his return to fitness. For me, the only guaranteed midfield starter today is Anderson and I think SAF will give Fletcher a start, with Carrick’s pragmatic game not suiting how United should play against Norwich, especially considering that if United don’t lose today then we will have gone 25 games undefeated in the Premier League.
United will be galvanised by the return of striking do Rooney and Hernandez this afternoon, with both recovering from their injuries that ruled them out of the midweek fixture against FC Basel. It is only when Rooney doesn’t play that you realise just how important he is to United: when he plays, we play around him and he brings a confidence that is infectious on the players around him. He has made a record breaking start to the Premier League scoring 9 goals and he should return to the team with a bang this afternoon, with his new favourite striking partner Hernandez recovering from a dead leg he sustained against Stoke. As for wingers, Nani and Young are two of the most in form attacking players in the league. Both have made blistering starts to the campaign and Nani has once again shown just how much he has progressed over the past few seasons. He is a game changer when he is on his game and his work ethic is improving to such an extent that he is now showing signs of being a team player as well, he is moulding himself into a well rounded player and long may it continue. Ashley Young has made quite the impact so far this season and scoring in his home Champions League debut, albeit not in the best of circumstances, will boost his confidence even further. His deliveries always look dangerous and now that Rooney and Hernandez are back, United should pose an aerial threat against a Norwich defence that will be nervous in the Theatre of Dreams.
Prediction? 4-1. SAF will be expecting a ruthless performance after the draw midweek in Europe. The return of Rooney should give United that cutting edge back and the confidence of playing at home should mean that today is nothing more than clock work. No disrespect to Norwich of course, who having won their past 2 Premier League games are in a rich vein of form for such a recently promoted side, but the daunting prospect of United at home should prove a step too far. Nani will get on the score sheet I think, with Rooney and Hernandez to net once each. Unfortunately I think that United won’t keep a clean sheet but in the fashion of old, we will simply score more.