Manchester United are still smarting from a wretched Manchester derby defeat on Wednesday and are desperately short of defensive bodies, but ought to have enough to squeeze past Norwich at Old Trafford today .
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team were surgically pulled apart by Man City in that Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, and a generally positive December that saw them win four league games already seems a long time ago.
Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and now Harry Maguire have all been lost to injury leaving United’s spine looking soft and in desperate need of reinforcement.
Fortunately they face rock bottom Norwich, whose performance levels have generally impressed but have found wins and clean sheets hard to come by.
They have drawn with Arsenal and Tottenham at Carrow Road after toppling Man City there in the season’s early weeks, but have been a meeker proposition on their travels.
Just five of their 90 Premier League goals have been scored away and they could be short of a goal threat with Teemu Pukki an injury doubt. Interestingly, they have conceded nine fewer goals away from at home and demonstrated in a draw at Leicester that they can shut out the league’s most potent attacks.
United welcome Anthony Martial back from injury and he should join a front three with Marcus Rashford and Daniel James.
The thorny issue for Solskjaer is how to support that forward line with more creativity, and his options are scarce. Andreas Pereira’s off-the-ball work is strong but his quality on the ball is substandard, while Jesse Lingard is in a rut so deep he has almost found China. Nobody has convinced in the No slot in Solskjaer’s 4-2-3-1.
It is a sad state of affairs, but it is certainly no stretch to say that players such as Norwich’s Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendía would improve United in this department.
Team news on the way shortly.