Paddy Davitt verdict: Time to get real, City
PUBLISHED: 14:11 12 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:44 12 January 2020
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What will cut deeper than another Premier League defeat is the gnawing sense Norwich City fell a long way short of what they can produce at Manchester United.
It is abundantly clear by now they have a squad packed with honest endeavour and youthful potential.
But they do not have the depth of quality or the consistency to extract that to anywhere near the levels required to flourish in the top flight.
That may well be simply stating a fact. When Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber framed this next chapter in the warm afterglow of promotion as another attempt on Everest is it any wonder they remain stuck nearer base camp.
You can talk about injuries, a feeling they have had the thin edge of the wedge with the roll out of the VAR system, but this challenge would have been just as steep if the currents had been favourable all the way from August.
They have not, and as a result this will increasingly be about the fightback.
Should Norwich fail to muster a rare win against a relegation rival, when Bournemouth arrive at Carrow Road, then you can be sure the narrative will begin to tilt negatively towards avoiding some of the poorest points hauls mustered in City's previous top flight campaigns.
That is the way of the world now. Sadly.
The fact Farke and Webber plotted a Championship title triumph against the odds last season for some appears to be the benchmark. Yet football miracles in the Premier League are few and far between. Hence why Leicester City's title win or more pertinently the greatest of great escapes at the wrong end happen so infrequently.
Norwich arrived in the big time well ahead of the schedule framed by Farke and Webber.
At this point in the cycle if it feels like a bridge too far it should shock no-one.
Soaring Sheffield United may be held up as an uncomfortable role model, but in terms of the money they spent last summer, and the defensive template they retained under Chris Wilder, there is enough divergence to resist direct comparisons.
Norwich's more expansive approach moulded by Farke has proved less robust. But given the way the squad was constructed and the vibrant manner they cut a dash through the Championship there was no huge demand for the head coach to abandon his guiding principles before the opening night at Anfield.
That would run counter to the sense there is something more sustainable, more organic being attempted under Farke and Webber's guidance.
But it is very hard to focus on the bigger picture when City fail to replicate what they have shown in recent months; when the same individual and collective abdication of responsibility is evident as the goals fly past Tim Krul.
What was different about Old Trafford was the feeling, after Marcus Rashford opened his account, too many in green and yellow felt this was beyond them, the stage too big, the water too deep, the quality of the opponent too great. One league win in 17 would tell you it probably is. Perhaps the grind of bumping along the bottom of the Premier League has taken its toll.
As Farke himself said when Norwich rely on an 18-year-old making his first Premier League start to lead the line you can hardly expect him to out-perform Anthony Martial.
That is no slight on Adam Idah, but a very stark example of two clubs in the same league orbiting different planets.
Norwich have embraced the challenge and to this point in the season have been found wanting in the key moments at key times.
They fell short of their own standards at Old Trafford, allied to some fearsome young attacking talent at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's disposal, but few would surely contend Farke has failed to extract the most from his available resource over these past two seasons.
The environment around largely the same pool of players has shifted dramatically with promotion and bar the odd exception the majority have been unable to make a seamless transition.
They have a squad populated with coveted raw talent who may in time go on to prove they are class operators at this level. But they are not ready now to produce on a consistent basis.
That is why Norwich can go to second-placed Leicester and deserve to take all three points yet pitch up in Manchester and have no answer.
That is why the win over Manchester City remains an anomaly, and the failure to muster enough points or victories against the clubs around them is the primary reason they will continue to prop up the rest.