Melissa Rudd: United visit a great chance for Canaries to get season back on track
- Credit: PA
It’s become a weekly ritual for all those football fans who double up as virtual managers. Scanning the fixtures, weighing up transfers, trying to predict which players are likely to score big points.
Last weekend there was one player in particular at the top of my Fantasy Premier League wish list.
Callum Wilson had scored five goals in his last six league appearances, and up against another makeshift City defence that had leaked goals for weeks on end there was little doubt he would be on the scoresheet.
I may be a pessimist but this decision was based on applied logic as much as anything else. The chances of Norwich stopping a Bournemouth side who had only failed to score at home in the league twice in 2019, who had a striker in red hot form seemed fairly slim.
The mauling against Aston Villa left many of us wondering where the next clean sheet would come from. What a vital time it was to finally earn one.
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It reminded me of the response to a similarly terrible defensive display at The Den just over two years ago. In the lengthy post-mortem during the international break that followed, many were questioning how the new man at the helm would turn it around with the players at his disposal. Farke rung the changes for the next game, and City then kept five league clean sheets in a row.
Circumstances were very different of course; the Villa result didn't warrant the same ruthless personnel changes that the 4-0 Millwall defeat prompted. Russell Martin and Marcel Franke both started that game in south London. Neither would feature in a league game for the club again.
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This time the return of a much-needed defensive midfielder to shield the back four had the effect we all hoped it would, and even when Alex Tettey had to be moved to centre back early on in the second half he and Ibrahim Amadou put in superb performances to earn their side a first away point.
Tettey looks more suited to playing in a team of Premier League underdogs than he did part of a side all the others were chasing in the Championship last season. Maybe he feels he has a more defined defensive role now Norwich are under the cosh more often. With all the signs being that Ben Godfrey will be fit to face Manchester United, Tettey will likely be key again in that defensive midfield role on Sunday.
As a child of the 90s, growing up when Manchester United were winning every trophy available to them, it seems surreal that a quarter of the way into the season City would go level on points with them with a win.
They may have suffered a dramatic fall from grace, but the 2-0 Premier League victory Nigel Worthington masterminded over Sir Alex Ferguson's men in 2005 will always remain special. It proved only to be a consolation in City's bid for survival, but for a generation of fans it was the first time we could silence those so-called United supporters who'd routinely derided our choice of (local) team. Every school had those sorts of kids. Mine had lots.
The United boss refused to give a post-match interview that day, but when asked to analyse the defeat, defender Gary Neville was painfully honest: "If we don't score at Norwich and let a couple in, then it's an embarrassing day for us."
There will be no such rhetoric from the now television pundit or any of the United camp on Sunday given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men come to Carrow Road without a league away win since February. They have gone eight matches on the road without victory, have failed to score in their last two and also have to endure an energy-sapping trip to Serbia on Thursday night in the Europa League.
The Bournemouth point was a much-needed boost, now Norwich have a fantastic opportunity to get their season back on track. This time round it wouldn't be unexpected.