Saturday 2nd March 2013 kick-off 15.00pm (GMT)
By Sean McGuire
Sir Alex Ferguson is fully focused on Saturday’s match with Norwich City despite his teams clash with Real Madrid on Tuesday night. Although changes will be made there is no doubt that the great man will not take this match lightly, as regaining their Premier League crown is still high on the agenda despite their European distractions.
With Manchester United still fighting on all three fronts, the whole squad will be expected to play their part in what could be a momentous season; and because of this there is obvious similarities being pointed out between the current squad and the treble winning team of 1999.
However what stood out last week against QPR at Loftus Road was a resemblance to the great 1994 double winning side. Fergie has always looked back fondly at his first great team, which won everything domestically before being disbanded to make way for The Class of ’92. However what this team of 1994 had was a team of ‘captains’; leaders all over the pitch, players you can count on, players you can trust.
That team had the Likes of Schmeichel, Bruce, Keane, Ince, Robson, Hughes and Cantona; and they all had the tenacity and leadership to captain any side, however the honour was shared between Steve Bruce and of course, ‘Captain Marvel’ Bryan Robson.
United’s current team has similar leadership qualities and this was expressed by Sir Alex Ferguson after their trip to London, when he said after the game that he wanted to put out an experienced side.
The Reds fielded former captain Ferdinand, current captain Vidic and vice-captain Evra. In midfield they had a man who is about to play 1000 games for club and country in Ryan Giggs, and up front they had the fire-bellied Wayne Rooney and ex-Arsenal skipper van Persie.
United’s current crop has a likeness to both of Fergie’s greatest teams, and this combination could create a magnificent end to the season for the Reds. However there is still a lot of hard work to be one, starting with Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Manchester United will make several changes to their starting line-up with the Real Madrid game in mind; however they should still field a relatively strong team.
David De Gea will start in goal and in front of him Smalling is likely to play alongside Ferdinand, which means Vidic and Evans will be rested for Tuesday. Buttner may play instead of Evra at left-back with Rafael on the right. Jones is still doubtful through injury.
Anderson may make a rare start in midfield alongside Ryan Giggs, who could make his 1000th competitive appearance. Cleverley and Kagawa could also feature, however Carrick is expected to be rested for the midweek match. Valencia is set to play on the right wing, with either Nani or Young on the left. Scholes and Fletcher are still unavailable.
Hernandez will start and he could line-up with either Welbeck or Rooney. Van Persie may be among the substitutes.
Norwich have won two of their last four Premier League games against United, both at Carrow Road.
Norwich’s last league win at Old Trafford came in August 1989.
United have scored 13 headed goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
Just one of the 31 goals that Manchester United have conceded this season have been scored from outside the box. (Juan Mata, Chelsea)
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have kept three consecutive league clean sheets for the first time this season. This is their best run since March/April last season when they kept five in a row.
United are looking to win five league games in a row for the second time this season, no other side has managed this once.
United will be unbeaten for 16 games if they avoid defeat in this game, surpassing Manchester City’s 15 game unbeaten run from the start of the season.
United have hit the woodwork 19 times this season, the joint most in the league with Everton.
Robin van Persie has hit the woodwork seven times, more than six Premier League sides in their entirety.
United have claimed a league high and club Premier League record 27 points from losing positions this season.
If Ryan Giggs features in this game it will be his 1000th senior appearance for Club and Country.
Manchester United: (from) Lindegaard, De Gea, Rafael, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, Smalling, Buttner, Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson, Giggs, Kagawa, Powell, Young, Valencia, Nani, Welbeck, Rooney, Hernandez, van Persie.
Norwich: (from) Ruddy, Bunn, Steer, Camp, Martin, Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Barnett, Tierney, Bennett, Francomb, Johnson, Snodgrass, Howson, Surman, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Fox, Bennett, Tettey, Smith, Holt, Jackson, Kamara, Becchio, Murphy.
Referee: N. Swarbrick
Ground: Old Trafford
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