Paul McVeigh hopeful over Norwich City’s trip to Old Trafford

The Old Trafford experience was “once in a lifetime” for Paul McVeigh – and he believes Norwich City’s current crop could spring a Premier League surprise this weekend.

The Canaries travel to Manchester United on Saturday to face the 19-times champions and three-times kings of Europe in their own back yard, in front of what is likely to be City’s largest league attendance – topping the 71,597 Millennium Stadium crowd for the Division One play-off final in 2002.

Former City striker McVeigh played in Cardiff that day, as well as Norwich’s last trip to Old Trafford six years ago, where the Northern Ireland international scored from the bench with 15 minutes left – leaving United with a few anxious moments before wrapping up a 2-1 win.

A crowd of 75,000 awaits City on an afternoon that promises to leave its mark, whatever the final result.

“For me it was a once in a lifetime experience and I hope for some of those current boys they might get the chance to go and do it again,” said McVeigh.

“With the play-off final the crowd was quite bi-partisan, whereas this is going to be a larger, partisan crowd with only a couple of thousand Norwich fans. And the thing is, without making it sound like mission impossible, United have been playing really well compared to say Arsenal. It’s going to be Norwich’s toughest game of the season.”

Draws at Stoke and at home to Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday night – as well as the possible continued absence of Wayne Rooney with a hamstring injury – mean United won’t appear as completely imperious as they did during the opening weeks of the season.

Most Read

And the Canaries can also boast winning the previous meeting between the two sides, and exhilarating 2-0 victory at Carrow Road that arguably remained the highlight of City’s last flirtation with the top flight.

“I don’t think any player has ever gone into a game expecting to lose or thinking they have absolutely no chance,” added McVeigh.

“It’s like a cup tie where it’s a no-win situation for United; they are expected to win and if they don’t then they will get slaughtered for it.

“But going to United, you and the fans know there is always the possibility something special could happen. No one is expecting it, but if it does then… woah.

“Norwich will need to be firing in all cylinders and hoping United have a bad day, and it’s not beyond of the realms of possibility that might happen because there are always upsets – that’s why everybody loves watching.”

McVeigh does not believe his former City boss Paul Lambert will curb his attacking tendencies for Saturday’s trip to a place where United dropped just two league points last season – as it happens, in a 2-2 draw with a newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion side last October.

“I think he will go attacking,” said McVeigh. “He’s joked about where he is going to park the bus, but it’s just not in his nature to sit back. He goes into every game looking to attack the opposition and I don’t think Norwich have the players to hold back because there is too much attacking instinct. You may as well go and attack and if United out-score you then there is no shame in that.”

McVeigh admitted his goal at Old Trafford usually comes up in conversation with supporters: “I came on and we were already 2-0 down – Alan Smith volleyed probably the best goal I’d ever seen him score; you know it’s not going to be your day when he’s scoring those.

“Cristiano Ronaldo came on as sub – he was playing on my wing and that was a pretty big moment, without possibly realising he was going to go on to be one of the top players in the world.

“I stuck a few tackles into him, which was quite unusual for me as well – I didn’t like that tackling lark.”

The pressure is off City on Saturday after back-to-back wins and McVeigh added: “Especially at Norwich where they maybe don’t have the Premier League experience of QPR, there is always going to be a certain adjustment – but even when they weren’t getting results they were never far away.

“I think the Bolton win was a pivotal one and hopefully there will be plenty more points to come.”