It’s a funny ol’ game, isn’t it? When you’re chasing a title race, you’re desperate for the next game to come and are eagerly anticipating a defeat for one of your rivals. When you’re leading a title race, you’re desperate for the season to be over, for the games to be played, and for you to be on top when it’s all done. Fancy wishing a season away. But that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. I just want it to be over with. Can we just win the games and get the trophy lifted, please.
We’re in an excellent position right now, one we could have hardly dreamed of this time last season, and you would imagine the costly mistakes of last season mean the title is in the bag. We can’t possibly make those mistakes again. Whether we are happy to admit it or not, our fans are generally an arrogant bunch (as the “not arrogant, just better” banner would suggest, ironically) but as always in a season following us surrendering our title, our confidence has taken a bit of a knock. If we had won the league last season and were now 12 points clear, we’d be happy to claim the trophy was staying at Old Trafford. However, seeing us blow an 8 point lead with just a few weeks to go last year has meant we’ve had a blow to our confidence.
Norwich at home should be an easy three points and another game we get to tick off on the calendar, but United being United means that no game is really an easy game. We like to make hard work of it. We could absolutely boss a game, score an early goal or two, but with ten minutes left to play we like to let the opposition back in it and lose our shit. Players who have been picking out inch perfect balls from 20 yards suddenly can’t pass the ball accurately over a few feet. Our strikers suddenly find it easier to hit the woodwork than they do bury it in the back of the net. De Gea will decide it’s perfect timing to flap at the ball instead of making a world class save. They put us through the ringer this club, but if we’re honest, we’d probably have it no other way.
Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed this week that the only game the players have been talking about is Norwich, not Real Madrid, which I find hard to believe. Whilst of course the title has to be the priority every year, when we’re in such a comfortable position, it’s hard to stop thoughts from being drawn towards the Champions League game. What works in our favour is the fact we more or less have a fully fit squad, with Phil Jones touch and go, meaning every player who is picked for today’s game will be doing all they can to impress to ensue they get in the squad for Tuesday. So strong is this bunch of players that Ashley Young and Nani, who were both fit, couldn’t even make the subs bench for the Bernabeu.
Thankfully, Norwich’s away record is poor this season, with them winning just one of the thirteen games they’ve played. Only four clubs have picked up fewer points than them on the road so you would like to think that United will be able to continue the trend. Their recent form in general is nothing to write home about either, with Villa and Stoke the only clubs not to outperform them over the past 8 games.
It would be nice to see Nani given another go, given his sudden improvement over the past few games, to see whether he is a viable option for Real Madrid. Rooney and Van Persie should both start up front and you’d imagine that Carrick (who should be on the receiving end of lots of chants today) will be employed to boss it in the centre of the park. Cleverley is the more deserving partner, so it would be great to see him get 90 minutes.
Please United, just another three points and another game out of the way today.