Manchester United return to Premier League action this weekend, as the Red Devils host Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
United were embarrassed once again this past week, losing the Manchester Derby to rivals Manchester City in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal tie.
Although the Red Devils started on the front foot, it didn’t take long for the Citizens to seize control of the contest. They would take the lead in the 17th minute through Bernardo Silva, who curled a shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
It would be two at the half hour mark, as Silva turned from goalscorer to provider. He played Riyad Mahrez through on goal, and the Algerian made no mistake with the finish, going around David De Gea before passing the ball into the back of an empty net.
City grabbed another before the end of the half. Kevin De Bruyne danced past Phil Jones before firing a shot that was saved by De Gea, but the ball only bounced off Andreas Pereira and into the back of his own net.
United pulled one back through Marcus Rashford on the counter, but City held on to the two goal lead on the night, and will bring that advantage with them to the Etihad Stadium for the second leg.
Norwich, on the other hand, found cup success in their respective competition last weekend. Taking on Championship side Preston North End in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, the Canaries were able to get the job done.
18-year-old forward Adam Uche Idah was the star of the afternoon, grabbing a hat-trick to lead Norwich to victory. He got his first goal after only two minutes, finding the bottom corner with a shot from the edge of the area. Onel Hernandez would double the Canaries’ advantage before Idah then got another of his own.
Billy Bodin halved the deficit for Preston moments into the second half, but Idah would score a third from the penalty spot to put the game to bed. Former Red Devil Josh Harrop would grab a consolation goal late on, but Norwich were able to book their spot in the 4th round with relative ease.
Last time out
These two sides last faced off at the end of October at Carrow Road.
It was a rare successful road trip for the Red Devils, who dominated the game early despite some remarkable setbacks. United opened the scoring through Scott McTominay, who pounced on a poorly defended corner to drill a shot into the bottom corner.
They had an excellent chance to double their advantage when Daniel James was taken out in the area. However, Marcus Rashford would have his penalty attempt saved by Tim Krul, who did very well to get a hand on the ball.
Rashford bounced back brilliantly, to his credit, finding the back of the net about a minute later. He latched onto a long ball from James before bringing the ball down, settling himself, and slotting home past the Norwich keeper.
The Red Devils were awarded another penalty before halftime, as a shot from Fred was blocked by the right arm of Todd Cantwell. Lighting would somehow strike twice though, as Krul made another big save, this time stopping Anthony Martial.
Despite all that, United finished off the contest with 15 minutes to go. Martial managed to make up for his earlier miss, linking up with Rashford before chipping Krul to make it 3-0 on the afternoon.
The Canaries would score one of their own when Onel Hernandez hit back on the counter, but the Red Devils were able to hold on and take all three points from their travels.
United will likely be without star centerback Harry Maguire once again, as it was reported that the England international suffered a hip injury that could keep him out for the foreseeable future.
It’s a similar story for midfield duo Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, but there’s at least some hope that striker Anthony Martial will be able to return to the team after missing the most recent Manchester Derby through illness.
Norwich has been blighted by injury issues the entire campaign, but they’re at least starting to get some players back.
Center forward Teemu Pukki, who lit up the league early on, might miss out due to a hamstring issue. He’ll potentially join the likes of Timm Klose, Ben Godfrey, and Josip Drmic on the sidelines, but there’s a chance summer signing Ralf Fahrmann could finally feature once again for the Canaries.
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Williams, Fred, Matic, Andreas, James, Greenwood, Rashford
Norwich City: Krul, Byram, Hanley, Zimmermann, Aarons, Vrancic, Tettey, Cantwell, McLean, Buendia, Idah
What to watch for
Another last chance for Ole?
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under immense pressure once again, and failing to win on Saturday might just be the final nail in his coffin.
He’s already lost to the last place team in the Premier League earlier on in the season, as the Red Devils were defeated by Watford a few weeks ago, and the same could happen this weekend.
United are devoid of any confidence, which leads to issues at the back and going forward. They just can’t stop themselves from conceding, and they only manage to score goals when teams open up space in behind for them on the counter attack.
Luckily for them, Norwich have been dreadful at times this year, and might struggle in front of the bright lights of Old Trafford. It’s the best team for the Red Devils to play at the moment, and a win could at least give them some momentum.
If Solskjaer does fail once again, however, then there’s no reason for United to keep him as head coach, especially with Mauricio Pochettino still available.
He’s had many chances to prove himself, but Saturday might just be the last time we see Ole behind the wheel for the Red Devils.