Manchester United will face Norwich City in the Premier League at Carrow Road on Saturday evening. The match comes three days after the 1-1 draw against Young Boys in the final UEFA Champions League group stage match of the season with United winning the group and making the knockout stages of the competition. It was Ralf Rangnick’s second match in charge of the club and like Michael Carrick, he is so far undefeated with United winning three and drawing two of their last five matched post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United will be expected to continue that run of form as they bid to get back in with a chance of challenging this season.
United current sit sixth in the Premier League table with 24 points, three points adrift of fourth place and 11 points adrift of the top spot, currently held by Manchester City. Norwich sit rock bottom in the league, earning just ten points in the 15 matches they have played this season, winning twice, drawing four times and losing nine times. They share the relegation places with Newcastle United (19th) and Burnley (18th) with Watford, who beat United 4-1 recently, sitting in 17th place, three points clear of the trio in the drop zone. Of course, this could all change before a ball is kicked at Carrow Road with five matches being played before this one.
Previous meetings with Norwich City and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Norwich have met a total of 18 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 14 times, drawn once with Norwich winning the remaining three matches. United have scored 35 goals, winning four penalties and scoring two of them. Norwich have scored 11 goals, winning no penalties. United have kept a total of 10 clean sheets with Norwich keeping two. United players have been shown a total of 15 yellow cards and no red cards in this fixture with Norwich players shown a total of 22 yellow cards and no red cards. United are in much better form than they were in early November and will seek to take advantage of the strugglers.
United and Norwich have a good history. Mike Phelan both played for Norwich. Brandon Williams is currently on loan at the club. Mike Haines (Technical Scout) and Matthew Lewis (Performance Analyst) both worked for United. Henning Berg is a scout for the Norfolk club. Robbie Brady, Steve Bruce, Jacob Butterfield, Luke Chadwick, Ritchie De Laet, Dion Dublin, David Fox, David Healy, Paul Heckingbottom, Rhodri Jones, Phil Mulryne, Alex Notman, Anthony Pilkington, Simon Ratcliffe, Mark Robins, Michael Rose, and Martin Russel all played for both clubs, some at youth level. David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand both had trials at Norwich.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Norwich City in the Premier League at Carrow Road on Saturday evening…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
United have some capable goalkeepers this season. David De Gea is considered the number one goalkeeper for the club but that could all change this season if Rangnick feels there are better players in the squad. Dean Henderson played his second match of the season against Young Boys, which was good to see and the manager subbed him off in the second half to give Tom Heaton his debut for the club after coming through the academy and making his name in the game elsewhere. It was the first time he was seen since pre-season, in which he started a few matches with De Gea’s participation in the Euro’s and Henderson’s injury.
Lee Grant is also in the squad this season, but I would not expect to see him unless a loan spell was issued for Henderson, if De Gea is going to keep the number one spot and there are no injuries in the position with the players that remain. I would like to see Henderson given a chance against Norwich as it could be another good match for him to show what he has got as Rangnick will need to assess all of his players to find out who makes the grade, who is fine for rotation and who needs to leave the club. United need to be ruthless whilst thinking about the future as there are some competent players in the youth set up that will need nurturing.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence have done a lot better in the last five matches post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, keeping two clean sheets and conceding just four goals in those five matches, winning three and drawing twice. Raphael Varane is expected to miss this match, seemingly getting ready to return against Brighton and Hove Albion in just over a week’s time. This will mean that United will have to think about the next two matches without him, unless he is deemed fit earlier – which could add more problems based on what happened last time. This means that Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire could partner once again on the centre of the defence, which is not a problem.
The fullback roles have few options at this time with Aaron Wan-Bissaka stretchered off after the full-time whistle on Wednesday after colliding with the advertising hoarding, injuring his hand/wrist again, after knocking his knee earlier in the match. Because of this, it will be expected that Diogo Dalot starts once again in the right-back position after playing against both Arsenal and Crystal Palace in the position and doing well. On the other side, Luke Shaw returned against Young Boys, so could call time on Alex Telles’ participation once again, unless the Brazilian is considered to be fitter for this match with Shaw playing against Brentford next week?
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred, Bruno Fernandes
United’s midfield is perhaps the troublesome positions in the squad this season. With Paul Pogba injured and probably on his way out of the club as a free agent at the end of the season, or before, there is some rebuilding needed which will get this team a bit stronger in these positions so they can dominate, helping both the attack and the defence. Scott McTominay, Fred and Bruno Fernandes were all rested on Wednesday evening. They were all missed in that experimental side which was not a complete failure as United did not lose the match. However, reinforcement will be needed as United need to become hungrier in these positions.
McTominay can play in the defensive area of the midfield which will unlock both Fred and Fernandes to operate in the attacking areas, when on the attack and drop back to help when United were defending. This is the bare minimum that is needed to play in the midfield for United. There needs to be pace, ability and hunger for United to achieve. A victory over Norwich is the minimum that will be expected in this match as United then move on to think about the next during this busy Festive period. Rangnick will have some ideas on how to set his team up but these three players are perhaps the best options at this time. At least until changes can be made.
Forward: Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho
United’s attacking line is the strongest part of the squad this season, even with the injuries to Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani – with the duo back, the options will be impressive providing all players can pull some kind of form together at the same time. It could see United see reliance of the older players reduced, although Cristiano Ronaldo will want to play every match that he can for the club. The Portuguese superstar should start having been rested in the week and will be seeking to add to his 12 goals in all competitions so far this season. It has been a good return to United for Ronaldo – he could be intrinsic to United’s chances of success.
Mason Greenwood scored United’s only goal against Young Boys on Wednesday evening at the Theatre of Dreams, which was a good finish from a Luke Shaw cross. It has been said that Rangnick wants to make him one of the stars of this team, which we all know he is capable being but he will need to be nurtured in an era where the tactics and formation of the team will change. Jadon Sancho should be the other wide player to start in a 4-3-3 formation, with the player in the left where he could interchange with Greenwood, Ronaldo or cut into the centre with both fullbacks coming forward when United are on the attack.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Phil Jones, Alex Telles; Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek; Marcus Rashford, Amad Diallo, Anthony Elanga
United’s bench will be much different to the one which was named in the draw to Young Boys on Wednesday. I would like to see David De Gea on the bench with Henderson given a chance to shine under Rangnick, which could see the manager assess his players ahead of the important January transfer window. Both are competent goalkeepers but the manager needs to find out which one is better to build the team around. Both have good points and bad points and it is a risk worth assessing. In defence, Phil Jones and Alex Telles could line up on the bench with the former not able to play in the Champions League in the midweek.
In the midfield areas, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek could all have something to offer, although both Lingard and Van de Beek would need to raise their game considerably to earn starts in this squad. Both were not up to the high standards needed to feature more. It is entirely possible that both could leave the club in January with Lingard’s contract expiring in the summer and the Dutchman unhappy. In attack, with injuries hampering United, Marcus Rashford, Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga could all be available which would boost the options from the bench should more be needed from United.
Written by John Walker