David Hannant: Old Trafford must not prove to be City’s white flag moment
PUBLISHED: 10:29 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:29 15 January 2020
A few weeks ago in this very column I wrote of how I felt the season had reached its pinch point.
I said it was reaching the stage where it can go one way or the other - either the good performances would start getting the results they deserve or the performance level would slip.
Taking Saturday's game alone and worryingly it looked like it may well be the latter.
Like any Norwich City fan, I've seen some tepid displays in my time - though admittedly not too many under Daniel Farke.
However, there is no real sugar coating Saturday - comfortably it was in the top two weakest displays of the season.
Only Aston Villa at home stands out as worse for me and it was the one time City have genuinely looked like 'basement boys'...
It's one of the few games in the recent months where I have genuinely felt City have been second best.
Of course we were playing Manchester United, and while they are not the beast they once were I did find it a little bit baffling that plenty of people felt as though they had no right to beat us comfortably on their own home patch.
I read a few comments suggesting this is the worst Man United team in years and that they should be there for the taking - but they are still fifth and still the only team to take points off runaway leaders Liverpool.
But this is no excuse for the underwhelming display City put in - even if United were clearly having an 'on' day.
My hope is that we can look back on this either as a turning point or at the very least just an unfortunate off day.
My worry is that it was the moment the white flag was raised on City's relegation dogfight - which it just can't be.
For weeks now we have seen City put in terrific performance after terrific performance, but without getting the wins the displays fully deserved.
No matter how good a footballer you are, there has to be a point where that bears down on you.
They are all human after all and the psyche can do destructive things at times. Losing can become a habit as much as winning can and worrying there was that little something missing at Old Trafford to suggest that confidence is fading.
My hope though is that it was purely a blip - an off day.
And of course there is also the Teemu Pukki effect.
Adam Idah is an absolutely superb talent with oodles of potential, however, there was no mistaking that the Finnish talisman's presence was missed at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of faith in Idah and believe he will be a star for years to come.
However, Pukki really is a special type of player, whose absence you notice.
And it's not just for his goal threat - because Idah has that in abundance too.
It is the little things about the Finn that Idah perhaps didn't bring in the same way.
There is no bullying Teemu Pukki - he is in the Grant Holt mode where he can get physical when he needs to, works his socks off and chases lost causes.
I've lost count of the number of times this season - and last - that he has charged back into his own half and made last ditch tackles - and moments like that give the whole place a lift.
Obviously, his goals are his biggest contribution, but just having his presence on the pitch is a really big deal.
It's therefore great to hear he is back in training and gearing up for probably the biggest game of the season so far - at home to fellow strugglers Bournemouth.
While every game feels huge at this point there really is no understating just how vital it is that City take all three points at Carrow Road on Saturday.
It really will be the defining moment of the season - the point that we will be able to say without mistake whether or not the white flag has gone up.
If City fall short of anything but all three points, I'd say it really is curtains and a telltale sign that we're all ready to sleepwalk back into the Championship and fight another day.
However, Watford's recent form has shown how quickly you can climb this league when you string a few wins together.
And what better springboard is there to do so than taking points off a main rival?
Last time out I felt we had reached the pinch point - but I now realise that Bournemouth on Saturday is that very point.
I pay to watch entertaining and beautiful football, however, that is the least of my worries for this weekend alone.
I don't care how we do it, but we absolutely have to win. Any performance is just a bonus.