With cup ties occupying the club of late, Manchester United return to Premier League action this weekend. Here’s everything that you need to know ahead of the match.
(1) The less said about Tuesday, the better. Manchester City ran roughshod over the Reds at Old Trafford, leaving them in need of a huge win at the Etihad later this month to reverse the 3-1 deficit. There aren’t many positives to take from a defeat like that — Marcus Rashford scored again, but that’s about it. The #OleOut chorus will only grow louder after this one.
(2) Three games into 2020 and Manchester United are still in search of their first win. And, if it doesn’t happen this weekend against Norwich, I give up. This United side usually struggles in matches like this — with lesser sides sitting back and praying for a point — and, as such, a lot of the Old Trafford fear factor is gone.
(3) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempted to put on a brave face and look ahead after the Carabao Cup loss:
What can you do? Can you go and feel sorry for yourself? No, there’s absolutely no chance that I will and the players will. We’ve got to react. We need to win on Saturday.
(4) On the injury/illness front, there’s some good news and some bad: After missing the Wolves match last weekend, Jesse Lingard started on Tuesday and Anthony Martial came on for the last ten minutes. Both seem well on the road to recovery after their recent illness. Harry Maguire, on the other hand, couldn't go after picking up a knock against Wolves. With Victor Lindelöf still struggling in the air and Phil Jones still Phil Jones, he was missed. Maguire takes his share of ribbing — if not outright abuse — over his transfer fee, but he’s basically irreplaceable in United’s backline.
(5) On Tuesday night, Solskjaer seemed somewhat positive on Maguire, claiming that his injury “is not going to be a long-term one”. By Wednesday, though, it came out that Maguire suffered a torn hip muscle and he may, indeed, be out for a while. We all know what that means...
Harry Maguire has suffered a torn hip muscle and is facing a period of time on the sidelines.— Paddy Power (@paddypower) January 8, 2020
Bad news for the player. It does, however, mean we can look forward to more from this man in the coming weeks.
Swings and roundabouts. pic.twitter.com/igkiIfzYT9
(6) Norwich sit rock bottom in the Premier League — already practically adrift with seven points (and a ton of GD) separating them from safety. Daniel Farke’s side hasn’t won a league match since November, though they’ve pulled off a few notable draws against the likes of Arsenal, Leicester City, and Tottenham Hotspur during that stretch.
(7) Before the New Year’s Day draw, Farke admitted that his club faces long odds:
Let’s be honest, it will be a miracle to stay in the league for next season. But, one thing is for sure, don’t underestimate the attitude and spirit of my lads.
(8) Last weekend, Norwich traveled to Preston North End and won 4-2 in the FA Cup. While it does nothing for the club’s relegation battle, the victory still provides a little jolt of much-needed confidence. The biggest takeaway is the breakout performance from 18-year-old Adam Idah, who paced the Canaries with a hat trick. If Teemu Pukki can’t go this weekend — more on that in a minute — Idah could be an option up front.
(9) Pukki, Norwich’s leading scorer with nine goals, recently pulled his hamstring and looks doubtful for the trip to Old Trafford. And Dennis Srbeny, who missed the last two matches with a bad back, was sold to SC Paderborn this week, leaving Farke a bit shorthanded in attack. He might have no choice but to turn to the inexperienced (but talented) Idah.
(10) One to watch: Emi Buendia. This 23-year-old is a star in the making. Buendia arrived in Norwich last year and played a huge role in their promotion from the Championship. And, despite a blip in early December when Farke briefly dropped him from the lineup, he hasn’t missed a beat in the top-flight. Buendia creates chances and takes on defenders with the best of them. As such, bigger clubs (like Liverpool) are circling.
Emi Buendía and James Maddison are the only two players in the Premier League this season with:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 2, 2020
❐ 30+ tackles made
❐ 30+ chances created
❐ 30+ take-ons completed
Buendía has 50+ of each. pic.twitter.com/xjEeAk01uA
(11) Far from Norwich’s struggles damaging Farke’s star, the German manager might be in line for a big move this summer. Relegation or not, Bundesliga expert Raphael Honigstein sees a bright future for the Norwich boss:
The question is whether Farke will actually be [at Norwich] because he has been in the mix for a possible return to Dortmund — as head coach — in case Lucien Favre’s time as head coach is coming to an end, which has been a constant source of debate in Dortmund. That should tell you that people are looking beyond the results and within the context of what he has done and what he can do, that he’s still a pretty extraordinary manager.