Close but no cigar
Norwich City`s first visit to Old Trafford since 2004 has been the cause of much talk at work this week. Naturally, as you would expect, I work with a great number of Manchester United fans - they`re everywhere.
Despite being born and bred in Norwich I don`t speak with a particularly broad Norfolk accent but some of the United fans I work with speak like some real rare ol` Norfolk boys - the fact that they chose to support United as boys instead of Norwich is a shame, but no doubt repeated up and down the country.
Anyway, most of those I spoke with in the week have told me "I think we`ll win by at least three or four" although they were gracious enough to concede that City have had a decent start - so far.
For the third match in a row, Paul Lambert stuck with the same team that has taken all the points from Bolton and Sunderland. He`s clearly thinking "if it ain`t broke, don`t fix it" and besides, those players have played themselves into the right to start at Old Trafford.
The match was covered on Radio 5 Live and the first thing of note was that you could hardly hear United`s fans at all. Constant singing of "On the Ball City" and "I just can`t get enough" etc did the travelling fans proud.
And we so nearly caused a shock against arguably the second best team in Europe and probably the best team in England.
Elliot Bennett had a glorious opportunity in the first half when he exchanged a one two with Hoolahan and surged into the United box. His decision making let him down though and his tame cross was gathered by Lindegaard, starting in place of De Gea.
City defended in numbers and needed to against United`s multi million pound attack. Rooney and Hernandez both started and their movement was troubling but dealt with reasonably comfortably.
In his post match interview, Alex Ferguson said that City were impressive and able to make positives out of their breaks and that was certainly true. A little more composure from our players and better decision making could`ve seen us taking the lead.
In the second half, the best chances first went to Norwich. Morison beat his man and surged into the area, if only he could`ve picked out the unmarked Hoolahan with what has to be said would`ve been a straight forward pass, Wes would surely have scored.
A long slide rule pass from Johnson to Pilkington was easily cut out by Antonio Valencia but he slipped and suddenly the City winger was in one on one. Hearts were in mouths as Pilks put his shot inches the wrong side of the post.
Almost straight after that United finally scored from a corner with Anderson heading past Ruddy - it had taken them 68 minutes. Paul Lambert won`t accept defeat anywhere and he made positive substitutions with Jackson replacing Fox and Crofts replacing the tiring Bennett.
Pilkington had another great chance moments later when he received the ball on the left hand edge of the United penalty box - he fired his shot with a group of players in front of him and the ball deflected off Anderson against the wood work and back into Lindegaard`s arms - sometimes it`s just not your day.
As the game became more stretched at the end a nice passing move from United played Park into the City penalty area and his simple side foot pass to Danny Welbeck allowed the United striker to score, it finished two nil.
Alan Shearer stated that he was "impressed by Norwich." And so was I. We have done exactly as I hoped we would in this match. We went there and gave it a good go. We showed no fear and for nearly seventy minutes held out with our collection of decent players - but being honest, they`re not the interstellar stars of United.
We should`ve scored and Pilkington will be kicking himself. Both Bennett and Morison will also know that better decision making and we would have scored as well. Lambert is right when he says you have to take your chances.
But I`m being harsh - it`s nice to know that we gave a good account of ourselves and I feel a little disappointed. This fixture was never pencilled in as "one that we might get something from" but we clearly should have.
The press have already talked about United looking a little sluggish after their efforts against Basle in mid week. It was the same after the Sunderland game when it was a "poor" Sunderland performance - is it just possible that City`s contributions to both games have meant that these other two teams, both packed with millions of pounds worth of talent were made to look a little ordinary and in Sunderland`s case "poor"?
There are plenty of positives from this match and to "only" concede two here is no disgrace at all - just like at Chelsea we gave a good account of ourselves.
We now have another international break before we have a massive home game against Swansea - surely a must win match. On the strength of the last three matches we can win that one.
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