Manchester United-Norwich City Preview
LONDON (SE) - In-form Norwich City face a huge test on Saturday evening when they welcome Premier League leaders Manchester United to Carrow Road.
Norwich are unbeaten in four in the league after a shaky start to the season, and have tightened up at the back. Three clean sheets in their last four games in the league has already taken them above their tally from the whole of last season, but manager Chris Hughton knows that his team's defence will have to get even better this weekend.
"We'll need all that momentum and all the defensive qualities we have shown recently, and more, to get something," said Hughton in his Thursday afternoon press conference. "They don't come any tougher than that, even at home, but we are certainly better going into that for being on the run we are on.
"Maybe we have lost a bit of the attacking flair as a result of being more solid but it is hard for us to be the finished article and be as good as the big teams at both ends. Possibly we have had to sacrifice a little bit of that, but we are still getting into some good areas. The next stage is to remain as solid and create the opportunities on top of that."
United came from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2 last weekend to stay at the top of the table, and that result continued a run of five straight wins in the Premier League. Despite his own team being in-form, Sir Alex Ferguson is expecting a tough test on Saturday, and praised his opposite number ahead of the trip to Norwich.
"I've got a lot of respect for Chris Hughton," said Ferguson. "I think he's done a fantastic job at Birmingham and Newcastle and, with that performance against Arsenal, you think they've maybe turned the corner in terms of Chris' introduction there as manager.
"It's always the same when a manager goes to a new club. There's a different way of training, there are different ideas about players and maybe Chris is getting it together now. I hope not when it comes to our game, mind you!"
United forward Wayne Rooney has just two goals in eight appearances so far this season - his worst goal-scoring start to a season since joining the club in 2004. However, Ferguson is not short of attacking options. Summer signing Robin van Persie has scored or assisted in each of his nine league starts this season, while Javier Hernandez has bagged three goals in his last two matches, despite starting neither and playing just a total of 70 minutes.
The injury news for Saturday sees Norwich have doubts over Russell Martin and Harry Kane, while Manchester United's van Persie, Rooney, Nani, Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic are all concerns. Shinji Kagawa and Phil Jones may be close to match fitness after both returning to training.
Manchester United beat Norwich home and away last season and have won 12 of the last 14 league meetings with the Canaries. The only home win for Norwich in that time came in 2005 with a 2-0 win.