Manchester United are looking to continue their good run of form that has seen them go undefeated in the last five games when they face Norwich City in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup tomorrow.
The competition has typically been fairly low on the agenda in recent seasons with United crashing out to weaker opposition in each of the last three years. However, the cup represents an excellent opportunity for David Moyes to lose the proverbial monkey on his back by winning his first trophy as a top flight manager.
For Norwich, the competition may provide a welcome distraction after a disappointing start to their league campaign, with the East Anglia based outfit currently languishing in 18th place despite a substantial outlay over the summer which saw over £25 million invested in players at Carrow Road.
United progressed to the fourth round by beating Liverpool last month in a hard fought contest which was won by an instinctive Javier Hernandez goal just after the restart, while Norwich have faced lower league opposition in each of the last two phases of the competition having beaten Bury and Watford.
Moyes is set to rotate heavily for the fixture with the starting XI to be almost unrecognisable from the 3-2 victory over Stoke City at the weekend.
Alexander Buttner, Fabio Da Silva and Anderson could all feature after being left on the fringes in recent weeks and Wilfried Zaha could start for the first time since the Community Shield.
The game may come too soon for Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Danny Welbeck who are all recovering from knocks. Marouane Fellaini is cup tied for the Reds. Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick are almost certain to be amongst the players to be afforded a well-earned rest.
Meanwhile, Chris Hughton has a fully-fit squad to choose from for the tie with Elliott Bennett the only injury victim. Ricky van Wolfswinkel, formerly a reported target of United, could lead the line and the Dutchman has something of a point to prove after struggling for goals since a big money switch from Sporting Lisbon over the summer.
Honours were split evenly last term in the Premier League with both sides winning a game apiece. Norwich triumphed 1-0 at Carrow Road while a Shinji Kagawa hat-trick and a Wayne Rooney scorcher ensured a comfortable 4-0 win when the sides met most recently.
Peculiarly, United haven’t beaten Norwich in the League Cup since its inception, losing on two occasions. The smart money is on Moyes’ men who appear to be gathering a reasonable amount of momentum after a shaky start to the campaign. Patrice Evra talked up the importance of the competition in the build-up and United aren’t taking the competition lightly.
A victory for United would see them progress to the last eight and potentially just 270 minutes of football away from a Wembley show-piece, something which would be a huge bonus in Moyes’ first season in charge of the club.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Norwich