Pukki is a marked man for City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Daniel Farke admits Norwich City failed to lay a glove on Manchester United in the Premier League this season. That is why only an ‘outstanding display’ gives them a fighting chance with an FA Cup semi-final now at stake.
Farke is parking the Canaries’ lacklustre return to league action for now and hopes the intoxicating mix of a potential Wembley date and the fear of another hammering can spark a major cup shock.
Even Tim Krul’s penalty heroics could not avert a 3-1 Carrow Road league defeat in October, with Marcus Rashford again razor sharp in the corresponding 4-0 pummelling at Old Trafford.
“They are in fantastic shape. I would say probably the team of the moment. Unbeaten in 12 games or something with many successful results,” said Farke. “They will be full of motivation and confidence.
“They are one of the biggest, most successful clubs in the world and they have been in a transition period for a few years. But it is in their DNA to win titles, and they will compete for the Champions League and Premier League pretty soon.
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“But in one game you always have a chance.
“We had three really difficult away ties and we brought an intensity to our performance in those do or die games.”
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Farke places United right at the top when it comes to ranking the Premier League degree of difficulty for his club over recent months.
“In this league there is no other team we have struggled so much against,” he said. “They punished us at Old Trafford and at home. Against Manchester City, Leicester, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, even Liverpool at home, we have been close to taking points or have taken points.
“That is why we need a really outstanding performance.”
Farke has plenty of holes to plug in the tactical approach that saw his squad leak seven league goals in two meetings against Ole Gunnar’s Solskjaer’s expensively-assembled roster.
“They have world class players all over the pitch. Pace in attacking areas and technical quality, plus they are so flexible in how they set up,” he said. “Maybe we have to do something different in terms of our formation.
“It is difficult to create chances against them. Our movement has to be precise and effective. I don’t expect to create a lot of big, big chances. We might have to use our little moments and set pieces.
“(Harry) Maguire and (Victor) Lindelof are a top class pairing and for me Maguire is the best in the league alongside Virgil van Dijk in defending set pieces.
“They cover the wings with so much pace but then Juan Mata can come in for Dan James and have that vision in the pocket with clever passes. They can change within the game so we have to always have pressure on the ball so they cannot make those penetrating passes.”
City’s fitful attacking play, either side of the lockdown, was summed up by Teemu Pukki’s demotion from the starting line up against Everton. But with Josip Drmic (ankle) a late fitness call, the Finnish international might reasonably expect to reclaim his rightful place.
“You have these periods as a striker. It is quite normal,” said Farke. “Everyone knows Teemu is the man who has scored a lot of goals for us and that brings special attention from defenders. We felt bringing him from the bench would take some of that pressure off.
“But he has had chances.
“Against Southampton there was two or three chances to score and if he does that then the confidence starts to flow.
“I feel it is important there is not so much focus just on him.
“It is more important he works for the team and in the Everton game he had that assist for Emi Buendia’s chance. It is not just that he scores, I want good performances. Teemu always brings a benefit to the team.
“Josip got a knock against his ankle so we have to wait to see if he is available. All the others seem to be okay.
“This is a special period with a lot of games and not much rest. Normally you are on your summer holidays at this stage of the year.
“We have to rotate but it would not be healthy to make 10 or 11. We don’t have the squad to do that anyway.”