By Brayden May
Kick-Off: 12:45pm (English Time)
Referee: Craig Pawson
This weekend will see Manchester United travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich in a game which will have serious ramifications on the end of the season result for the two sides battling at either end of the table.
A win for the fifth placed Red Devils, who have a game in hand, will see them close the gap to one point on fourth placed Manchester City, who will do battle with Arsenal on Sunday afternoon in a match which could make or break United’s top four hopes.
Norwich meanwhile are stuck in a relegation battle and a victory would see them climb out of the relegation zone with a game in hand over fellow strugglers Newcastle United.
The match presents a big chance for United to close the gap before their make-up game midweek away from home against West Ham United.
The Canaries already have claimed a victory over the Reds this season when they claimed a 2-1 win at Old Trafford during United’s poor run of form in December thanks to goals from Cameron Jerome and Alex Tettey, with Frenchmen Anthony Martial netting for the home side.
Last weekend’s 1-1 draw with newly crowned champions Leicester kept United’s run of five games undefeated alive, whilst Norwich are coming off a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal away from home.
Reds manager Louis van Gaal is under no illusion that his side is in for an easy clash against the relegation threatened Canaries saying “it is always difficult to fight against a team that fights for maintaining their position in the Premier League”.
In team news United are set to be without Marouane Fellaini for the rest of the league season after he was handed a three-game suspension by the FA following his role in an incident involving Leicester City defender Robert Huth last weekend, where the Belgian appeared to elbow the German defender.
The Belgian however will be available for selection later this month when United do battle with Crystal Palace, hoping to claim their first FA Cup since 2004. Huth was also handed a three match ban for the incident, following his actions of pulling the hair of the Manchester midfielder.
In a positive sign for the Reds, Louis van Gaal will have the majority of his senior squad to select from with full back Luke Shaw and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger remaining the only injuries, a much better scenario compared to the last time the Reds battled the Canaries.
Van Gaal confirmed that changes to the line-up for the match may be possible as he said “we have to assess the tiredness of the players because there’s an overload of matches, so maybe I have to rotate”.
The injury crisis earlier in the season has been a blessing in disguise for the club with the boss being able to blood some of the younger players into the first-team squad giving fans a glimpse of what we have to look forward to in the future.
The home side will be without four first team members with Alex Tettey remaining out of action since March due to an ankle, while Andre Wisdom (on loan from Liverpool), Ryan Bennett and January signing Timm Klose will also miss the clash with the Reds.
The Reds will be hoping to take advantage of Norwich’s poor recent home form with the relegation battlers having claimed only a single victory in their last seven home games, although they did hold Manchester City to a 0-0 draw at Carrow Road back in May.
On the other side of the coin a victory for the Canaries would see them claim back-to-back Premier League wins against the Reds, ensuring they would be the first team to do this since Swansea City last term.
Since the inception of the Premier League in the early 90’s the two sides have met on 15 occasions with United having claimed 11 of those games, compared to Norwich who have managed to claim the three points on only three occasions.
The weekend meeting between the teams will be the eight time the clubs have down battle at Carrow Road with United having a winning record over their host having claimed five wins to two at the venue.
Reds midfielder Juan Mata is a player who loves to play against the Canaries having scored four goals more than any other opponent in his top-flight career in England.
With plenty at stake for both sides it is hard to see either of the teams holding back and in doing so it makes for an absorbing contest, in which United will be favourites to close the gap on the top four in the dying stages of the season.