Paddy Davitt: Should Farke refine his methods in search of precious win at United?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Trust and team work hold the key to Norwich City causing an upset at Manchester United on Saturday.
This might not be the United of Sir Alex Ferguson's era. Nowhere near it but Old Trafford is still a formidable fortress.
Only Crystal Palace have claimed three points this top flight season in 10 home league fixtures.
Norwich were undone by the burring speed and attacking threat of quality operators such as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Dan James at Carrow Road earlier in the campaign. It was a game that may have tilted so differently had Todd Cantwell despatched Max Aarons' cross inside the opening moments. That move in itself underlined City's approach. The marauding Aarons taking the fight to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's evolving squad.
Such ambition was punished ruthlessly by Rashford later in the first half when he cashed in on Aarons' positional lapse on a devastating counter thrust. City will surely look to deny such players the space and freedom to use such searing pace. That in essence suggests a tactical template not dissimilar to the recent encouraging 1-1 draw at high-flying Leicester.
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Norwich were circumspect, well organised and willing to counter-punch through the guile of Emi Buendia and the endeavour of Teemu Pukki. The Finn may not be risked as he looks to recover from hamstring and toe problems, but Adam Idah showed in less rarefied surroundings at Preston he possesses the same knack and composure bursting between centre backs to unsettle even the likes of a Harry Maguire. Dare one dwell on the past in search of fresh inspiration. Norwich actually won on their previous visit to the Theatre of Dreams under Alex Neil's guidance back in 2015.
The comparatives between a landmark victory for the Canaries and that solitary away win for Crystal Palace this season are uncanny. Palace, remarkably, won 2-1 just 29pc possession. City's 'Alex Tettey toe poke' victory was secured with 31pc. Norwich have just four shots on target that day, Palace mustered one fewer. City failed to muster a single corner back in 2015, Palace managed one. There are many different ways to win a game of football but those two Premier League matches in isolation spanning five years would suggest Norwich and Daniel Farke might be well advised to try and counter-punch the counter puncher.
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That requires a heightened level of trust and discipline from the players in Farke's instructions, and the head coach in the ability of his players to fulfil the brief.
"Sometimes you are sat in a dressing room after the game and you have no explanation why you lost or why you won," he said, after contriving to lose to Wolves just before Christmas. "But it happens whether you are fighting for titles, in the middle of the table or fighting relegation. You have to make sure you don't lose the trust and the confidence when it feels like everything is against you. It needs a strong mentality.
"When you are in a difficult spell it is even more important the players have my trust. If we don't keep that discipline and do the right things, or try to be too individual then we have no chance in this league. It is hard when things are going against you as a team not to go away from the things we need to concentrate on, but you have to be mentality strong. You have to trust yourself and not lose the confidence. We lost the Southampton game because we were not confident enough. Let's stick to what we're doing. You don't have to be scared of mistakes. Blame our philosophy or blame me, no problem, but I trust you to do the right thing. This is quite important to give the players trust."
Farke spoke after a bruising defeat at Burnley of the need to retain a faith in their footballing beliefs. But he is too astute for that to mean a slavish adherence to a rigid philosophy. At Everton and Leicester we saw a more nuanced approach. It needs to be refined even further to return from Old Trafford with more than hard luck stories.
That should not be misinterpreted. The solitary away league win at Goodison Park was notable for the revisionism to the stated desire to play out from the back and through the press. Kenny McLean's re-deployment in a more advanced role afforded Tim Krul and City's centre backs the opportunity to go longer and quicker to utilise his aerial power. At Leicester, any number of chances flowed from balls over the top into the channels. The numbers it took for Norwich and Palace to prevail previously at Old Trafford suggest it might take something similar again this weekend.