Manchester United host Norwich at Old Trafford on Saturday. United sit first in the table after six games, while Norwich has exceeded expectations and are in ninth place.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges enjoyed a sensational start to the Premier League season, winning their first five matches and scoring 21 goals in the process. The past week has been somewhat of a comedown for the Premier League champions as they relinquished leads against Stoke and Basle in the space of three days.
The Red Devils are in the midst of an injury crisis and the problems are manifesting themselves on the pitch. Despite scoring three goals against Basle, the attack lacked the potency and urgency of the opening five matches. Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez are doubts for Saturday’s match and Ferguson will be hoping Danny Welbeck can build on his two Champions League goals against Basle.
The defence has badly missed the injured Nemanja Vidic, while United’s midfield has shown an inability to break up play. United have faced 23 shots on target from inside the box in the opening six league games, while the 85 shots on the United goal is a league high.
Teams may be trying to test David De Gea after the Spaniard showed himself to be susceptible to long shots early in the season, but the keeper has only conceded five goals, joint second least in the Premier League.
Norwich had achieved back-to-back promotions and were expected to struggle this season. Instead, two successive victories over Bolton and Sunderland have left Paul Lambert’s side a creditable ninth in the table.
Norwich started the season with two 1-1 draws against Wigan and Stoke. Lambert’s men then crashed out of the Carling Cup after a disappointing 0-4 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons.
Norwich battled well away to Chelsea, but ultimately lost 3-1 after a late Chelsea rally. The Canaries then lost 0-1 at home to West Brom, but the last two games have given Norwich fans reason to be positive.
Anthony Pilkington and Bradley Johnson gave the Canaries a 2-0 half-time lead away to Bolton, before a second half Martin Petrov penalty pulled a goal back for Bolton. Norwich also raced into a 2-0 lead against Sunderland through goals from Leon Barnett and Steve Morison, with Kieran Richardson scoring for Sunderland four minutes from time.
Despite United’s injuries and Norwich’s promising start to the season, the Manchester side should win quite comfortably at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Overall, United have injury concerns over Rooney (hamstring), Hernandez (dead leg) and Chris Smalling (groin), while Vidic (calf), Tom Cleverley (ankle), Jonny Evans (ankle), Rafael (shoulder) and Darron Gibson (ankle) are definitely out. Norwich could be without James Vaughan, Daniel Ayala, Elliott Ward and Zak Whitbread. Richie De Laet is on loan from Manchester United and will be not be able to play against his parent club.