Norwich City-Manchester United Preview
Norwich City might be just the right opponent at just the right time for struggling Manchester United and under-fire boss Louis Van Gaal.
The spotlight on United's Dutch manager has only intensified in the wake of Chelsea's decision Thursday to part ways with Jose Mourinho, with the Portuguese now installed as the favourite to replace the beleaguered Van Gaal.
Winless in five across all competitions (0-3-2), United followed up their Champions League elimination against Wolfsburg with a humbling 2-1 reverse at Bournemouth last weekend.
Enter struggling Norwich City, who have lost four straight to United in all competitions and claimed only one point in seven Premier League visits to Old Trafford.
Van Gaal may have one significant advantage over his erstwhile colleague in that, unlike Mourinho's dissenting players at Stamford Bridge, his players remain committed to him.
Despite the recent travails, United goalkeeper David De Gea - looking for his fifth straight clean sheet at home this weekend - insists the team is unified behind van Gaal.
"There's a great atmosphere," De Gea told the official club website. "The dressing room is very together and united, they are a great set of lads and we're all very happy with the group of players that we have and I think that's really important in a team if it wants to achieve big things."
Defender Daley Blind echoed his 'keeper's sentiments as United (8-5-3) circle the wagons and try to solidify their top-four status.
"You work every day very hard on the training session still to improve," Blind told the official club website. "There is a very positive atmosphere in the group at the training sessions because everyone wants to give everything.
"The work rate is very high, everyone wants to run for each other each inch. It's great to see and we have to show it on the pitch now in the game."
Norwich City (3-5-8) have been routed 4-0 on each of their last three visits to the Theatre of Dreams, and United will like their chances of creating another nightmare come Saturday evening.
The Canaries have won just one of their last 11 league matches (1-4-6) and are in the drop, level with Swansea City on 14 points but one goal worse on differential.
Manager Alex Neil was pleased with the spirit his side showed in coming back from a goal down at halftime to secure a point against Everton last Saturday in a 1-1 draw.
"Tactically nothing changed," Neil told the official club website. "Strategically, nothing changed, but they went about their business in the right way. It showed how good a team we can be.
"It's always very honest, there's no hiding place in our changing room. That's what you need. If you're going to get anywhere, you need to know what's acceptable and what's not."
Norwich City have almost a full squad to choose from for the match with only Matthew Jarvis (knee) confirmed out.United will be without defender Marcos Rojo (shoulder). Bastian Schweinsteiger is serving the second of his three-match ban, while Luke Shaw (leg) remains out as does Antonio Valencia (foot).
Wayne Rooney may be in line for a return from injury, but Jesse Lingard is rated doubtful.
United did the double over Norwich the last time the Canaries were in the top flight in 2013-14. Rooney and Juan Mata netted braces in the most recent 4-0 victory in April 2014, and Danny Welbeck secured 1-0 victory at Carrow Road.
The Red Devils also knocked Norwich out of the League Cup that season with a 4-0 romp at Old Trafford in Oct. 2013. Chicharito Hernandez scored twice while Phil Jones and Fabio added late goals.