Preview : United v Norwich City

Who would have thought it, some 22 years on, that the gangly kid who floated like a paper-thin butterfly, on as an early substitute for the injured Dennis Irwin, would make 1,000 senior appearances for club and country. The number is arbitrary of course; just one more excuse to laud Ryan Giggs’ extraordinary career. But with Manchester United talking on Norwich City at Old Trafford this weekend laud the fans will as the Welshman reaches an epic milestone.

In the intervening years Giggs has not always been the fans’ favourite; only on occasion the club’s best player, but the impact has been without peer. Two decades on from an inauspicious début against Everton, Giggs survives as testament to both will and rare talent.

“Twenty-three years in the first team, it is unbelievable,” said manager Ferguson.

“I said to him on [Friday] morning: ‘I expect a bill from your mother, all these sandwiches and teas she used to make for us,’  when I went to his house every week trying to get him to sign a schoolboy form. It seems a long time ago but what an incredible career. Absolutely fantastic.”

Indeed, Giggs’ role is still worth plenty of merit this season, with game defining contributions against Queens Park Rangers, Everton, Fulham and West Ham United in recent weeks. So much so that the midfielder-cum-winger has signed on for yet another season at Old Trafford, which will take Giggs past his 40th birthday.

Giggs’ experience will certainly play a part as the season comes to its dénouement.

With United boasting a 12 point lead in the Premier League, and facing Real Madrid at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, the 39-year-old could start this weekend – with rotation in mind and not sentiment. Madrid in three days’ time will certainly play some part in Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection this weekend, although the United boss is not short of options with a nearly fit squad available for the Canaries’ visit.

Robin van Persie is available after suffering from a sore hip in recent days, although defender Phil Jones will miss the match against Norwich with an ankle injury.

“Phil Jones starts running today,” said Sir Alex.

“He’s got a fight on his hands to be ready for Tuesday but we’ll give him every chance. He won’t be available for tomorrow. We have no injury issues. Robin van Persie has trained this week – he’s available for tomorrow. His hip was very tender but he’s okay now.

“Tomorrow is an important one because Tuesday will look after itself. It’s an occasion on Tuesday whereas tomorrow is the mundane practical situation in that we need to win.”

Manchester United v Norwich City – Premier League, Old Trafford – 3pm, 2 March 2013.Elsewhere, Ferguson is likely to pair captain Nemanja Vidić in central defence with Jonny Evans on Saturday, bringing veteran Rio Ferdinand in for Madrid’s visit next week. Meanwhile, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Shinji Kagawa will compete for two spots in midfield.

van Persie could start, although Ferguson is unlikely to take any risks with his top goalscorer should the Dutchman’s hip still be a problem. Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernández will come into the side should Ferguson bench the former Arsenal striker.

Indeed, United’s position in the Premier League dictates that complacency comes into play against Norwich, with minds surely drifting towards Real’s arrival early next week. Yet, there is also an incentive: with City facing Aston Villa in Birmingham on Monday night United could open up a 15 point Premier League lead by Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Chris Hughton’s side is without midfielder Alex Tettey who has a knee injury, although new signing Kei Kamara could start after impressing against Everton from the bench last weekend.

The Canaries come into the match having salvaged some form after the 5-0 thrashing at Liverpool and the humiliating cup exit against Luton Town. Hughton’s side beat Everton last weekend, and secured draws against Fulham, QPR and Tottenham Hotspur before that.

Now eight points clear of the relegation zone, the visitors are in a good position to retain Premier League status come the season’s conclusion.

United, meanwhile, hasn’t lost to Norwich at Old Trafford since August 1989. In five Premier League visits to Old Trafford, Norwich has secured just a single point. While history is on United’s side, form also points to a comfortable home victory.

The Premier League isn’t as simple as that, of course, and there are few that understand the vagaries of the modern game quite as well as Giggs. The equinox Giggs’ career may be turning from autumn to winter, but the Welshman is still likely to play an important part in whatever success United achieves in the coming months.

“He sets an example – and has done for a number of years. He is Mr Manchester United,” midfielder Michael Carrick told ManUtd.com.

“He sets the tone around the dressing room. He doesn’t say an awful lot but when he does speak, everyone listens and everyone respects him. It leads onto the pitch. Not many people have lasted as long as Ryan. You have to take it year by year and see how your legs hold up. He is a one-off.

“It is not just that he is still playing, it is the way he has adapted his game. In his younger years he had a totally different way of playing than he has now. To be able to do that can’t be easy. It shows the qualities that he has.”

Quality that Old Trafford will applaud with vigour on Saturday. Provided the Reds pick up three points, of course.

Match details
Manchester United v Norwich City – Premier League, Old Trafford – 3pm, 2 March 2013.

Possible teams
United (4-4-2: de Gea, Rafael, Vidić, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Anderson, Giggs, Young; Hernández, Rooney. Subs from: Lindegaard, Smalling, Ferdinand, Büttner, Nani, Powell, Cleverley, Carrick, Kagawa, Welbeck, van Persie.

Norwich(4-4-2): Bunn; Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Hoolahan; Kamara, Holt. Subs from:  Camp, Rudd, Fox, Jackson, Whittaker, E Bennett, Pilkington, Becchio, Barnett, Tierney, R Bennett, Murphy

Match officials
Referee: N Swarbrick
Assistants: S Long, A Halliday
Fourth official: C Foy

Form
United: WWWDWW
Norwich: LLDDDW

Head to Head
Last 10: United 8, Norwich 2, Draw 0
Overall: United 32, Norwich 16, Draw 13

Stats

  • Ryan Giggs’ goal on his 999th professional appearance and a stunning strike from Rafael da Silva secured United three points against QPR last weekend;
  • Rafael’s superb goal against QPR is hardly indicative of the Brazilian’s shooting this season, with the full-back sporting a 57% accuracy rate from 14 attempts shots;
  • Robin van Persie’s availability is a bonus given the Dutchman’s form this season – he has achieved a shot on target once every 42.9 minutes, as well as contributing 43 crosses and 11 assists;
  • Tom Cleverley continues to mature this season – he has successfully completed a pass in his opponents half once every 3.1 minutes he has been on the field of play;
  • Rio Ferdinand may be the wrong side of 30 but leads the United squad in defensive contributions this season, with 133;
  • Two late goals from Kei Kamara and Grant Holt stunned Everton as Norwich ran out 2-1 winners last weekend in a game which moved the Canries towards safety;
  • Grant Holt could be key to Norwich’s chances – the big frontman has successfully hit the target with 62.2% of his 37 attempts on goal this season;
  • Holt is also the Norwich player with the most fouls to his name, having now conceded 49 this term;
  • Sebastian Bassong has made 93 interceptions this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index – the highest in the Norwich squad;
  • Forward Robert Snodgrass has delivered 105 crosses in the Premier League season to date – the best tally in the league.

Prediction
3-1

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Comments

  1. Sounder22 says

    This is for the title lads! The Madrid game will see us through the rest no matter what’s happens in that one

  2. RedDevilInAz says

    The Mothership (Manutd.con) the lineup is

    de Gea
    Smalling Vidic Evans Evra
    Valencia Carrick Anderson Kagawa
    Rooney
    RVP

  3. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    RedDevilInAz said:
    de Gea
    Smalling Vidic Evans Evra
    Valencia Carrick Anderson Kagawa
    Rooney
    RVP

    Only doubts for me are Anderson and Kagawa. The former needs to be at his physically rambunctious best, but the latter doesn’t track back as well as I’d like and doesn’t seem up to the physicalness of the Premier League; I would not play him on the left in this match.

      • RobDiablo says

        I said I wouldn’t play him on the left. If you were paying attention, you’d have noticed that Kagawa didn’t score any of his three goals while playing on the wing. For the first one, he did a Park Ji-Sung and floated into the center; he scored the others after Welbeck had come on.

  4. AnantaxAnantax says

    Wow. Strong team! I am very surprised RVP starts…

    Great though, I think SAF is spot on…we need to secure the title.

    3-1 United!

  5. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Looks like another one of those matches: United dominate but can’t find the right pass in the final third. If Norwich score on some of their infrequent counters, they’ll have every chance of leaving OT with a result. Why can’t United ever play like a side at the top of the table?

    • Damian Garside says

      A sublime irony if we finish the season with record pint total, champs by a clear magin but never having played like champs at all.

  6. Sidsidney says

    Snodgrass, Leeds cunt is playing his own cunty game

    The ref should have booked him when he went flying in earlier on

    Someone needs to go through him

  7. AnantaxAnantax says

    Anderson has been missing again,, except for one good tackle

    once Kagawa gels with RVP and Roo we’ll be truly awesome…

  8. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Right, take RvP off for Welbeck, and put Rooney up top and Kagawa just behind him.

    Norwich avoided the mistake of scoring first, so United will score early in the second half, start faffing, and then scramble to save the three points after Norwich pulls one back with 10-15 minutes left to play. I’m getting tired of watching re-runs.

  9. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    sidney said:
    Snodgrass, Leeds cunt is playing his own cunty game

    The ref should have booked him when he went flying in earlier on

    Someone needs to go through him

    He’s got a shit name too

  10. Sidsidney says

    Are we playing an endless number of one twos on the edge of the area in preperation for Madrid or something

    It’s ridiculous

  11. AnantaxAnantax says

    marlon said:
    How long since we’ve seen that?

    Rooney 4-0

    Amen brother

    Hope it boosts his confidence ahead of Madrid! What a beauty!

  12. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    took a long time to get that second goal, but was comfortable in the end.
    kagawa stunning today.

  13. marlon says

    Rooney and Kagawa both looked much better after van Persie went off. Hope they can figure out how to play together at some point.

    71 points with 10 to go is pretty amazing.

  14. Violent Banana says

    Strange game, for long periods we were very ordinary; it felt like the Madrid game was on the players’ minds.

    Once we scored the second they capitulated.

    Happy to escape with no injuries. Madrid have just beaten Barca again, their confidence must be sky high.

  15. AnantaxAnantax says

    I am still basking in the fucking afterglow on this

    We took our time, but I thought everyone played well, with the exception of Anderson

    Once we got the 2nd goal (great pass by Carrick, great run and unselfish pass by Roo) we really clicked

    What a great great day: we got the points, we finally hammered a side, and most of our players played really well

    Life is good

  16. Sidsidney says

    Aye, you cant over think it, it’s just winning in first gear because they’re shit and the sun is out

  17. sheesh says

    Norwich fans are such cunts. I’d be quite happy to see them get relegated next season.Why travel all the way to Old Trafford if you cannot come up with anything better than shit unoriginal songs that we hear every week?

    I’m glad we smashed them. Horrible club.

  18. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    The stream I was watching was from Fox, Ian Darke and Steve McManaman commentating. In the first half, Ian reminded Macca that, earlier in the season, they had concluded that, while United had been winning matches, the form was hardly convincing. He then asked Macca if United were now convincing. After a lengthy pause, Macca lied and said “yes”. He then went on to defend his answer by pointing to United’s position at the top of the table as well as to the number of competitions in which United is still involved. This, of course, is not the question he was asked, but he dodged it in the same way that so many United supporters do.

    If United were a player, it would be Berbatov: wonderfully skilled, but, to put it kindly, always conserving energy and doing just enough to get by. We have been extremely fortunate that the relatively brief spells of real application produced by this United side have been enough to win most matches.

  19. RedDevilInAz says

    It took us awhile to get started , it appeared that everyone was slightly out of frequency with each other, and with Norwich packing their penalty are the short quick passes just where not working. The goal just at the half settled things down and cause Norwich to have to come out of their own half of the pitch. Once they did that i felt it was only a matter of time before we got the second one and after that you just knew more would follow. My heart was in my mouth every time someone went down, Evra, v. Persie, Rooney, Welbeck hope that extent is knock and bruises.

  20. Denton Davey says

    Rob Diablo @ 6:38: “If United were a player, it would be Berbatov: wonderfully skilled, but, to put it kindly, always conserving energy and doing just enough to get by.”

    Really good, accurate way of analyzing things – TheLads are really, really good and usually the other team knows it.

    What I liked in today’s match was the pressing game early on and then KagawaBunga ! When you talk about adding a “different dimension” to the team’s play, we saw today how he provides it with stealth, give-and-go, wall-passing and goals that are like a shiv in the ribs of the opposition. As good as TheWayneBoy’s goal was – and it was terrific – the way in which the team dovetailed for the three attacking moves that resulted in KagawaBunga’s goals was really exhilarating. AND, AV7′s left-footed pass wasn’t half-bad, either !

  21. Coach Herbie says

    Its amazing how this team is 15 points ahead. Is SAF some kind of saint or is the standard of football in the premier league at an alltime low. And if we go on and beat Real Madrid, then what can I say. One thing about Man.United, we know how to win games even if we are not playing well and I have to give SAF 100% credit for that. He is one of the greatest managers of alltime. But the best playing football team in the premier is Swansea. They play some brilliant stuff, as good as Barcelona as far as style of play but they are not consistant enough to be up in the top four. The difference is, we know how to win even when we are not playing well and this makes us a great team. Hats off to SAF for believing and having confidence in a team, especially a midfield that I thought was still not up to par but they have come through and we are marching on to the title.

  22. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadffs says

    people coming in off the wing is what weve needed for ages though

    dont you remember the one paced straight line table football shite we played for most of last season with the wingers refusing to come in off the wings and us having no idea how to do anything but give it to valencia and wait for him to fluff a cross to nobody, with scholes and carrick sitting there 50 yards away from the strikers watching

  23. sheesh says

    I wonder if kagawa will play tomorrow off the back of his performance in the first leg and vs Norwich.

  24. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    You mean KagawaBunga don’t you?

    No?

    So you’ll be pleased to know you’re not a retard then…

  25. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    uncleknobheadffs said:
    people coming in off the wing is what weve needed for ages though

    Kagawa didn’t come in off the wing, he abandoned it altogether. He was to the right of the six yard box when he scored.

  26. bman says

    It’s to know how to play Roo, RVP, and Kagawa together. But we really do need to give Kagawa a decent chance — he was the best player in the Bundesliga last season in the advanced mid/withdrawn striker role.

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