It’s hard not feel a little euphoric after an evening like that… impossible in fact.
Most of us had accepted that the Arsenal game was probably THE moment of the season – akin to last season’s away win at Tottenham and the home win against last night’s opponent back in 2004/05.
But no… just two home games after that win over the Gunners, Chris Hughton and his men deliver us another that arguably surpasses them all. It was a victory that not only lifts us closer to the much coveted mid-table, but further reaffirms the belief that this new regime is getting things right.
Last night was a classic case of Team Hughton getting the tricky balance of defence/attack absolutely spot on. To go ‘gung-ho’ against the likes of United leaves you wide open to be picked-off on the counter-attack, and to park the bus merely invites them to further pile the pressure on. Instead they struck a balance so perfect that even Sir Alex Ferguson had to admit that the City win was a deserved one.
The MotD crew were again given little choice but to wax lyrical about the performance and even dear old Harry was happy to agree the victory was a merited one – citing that we created as many chances as the Reds.
Statistically we may have been second best – we knew that would be the case – and there is something aesthetically pleasing about the way United knock the ball around. But was John Ruddy busier than normal? The answer is an emphatic no.
With the exception of those torrid closing minutes his evening was relatively quiet, and that Hughton spoke in glowing terms of his concentration levels tells its own story.
Much of the pre-match discussion in and around Carrow Road related to last week’s yawn-a-thon at the Madjeski, and how some of the team looked a little jaded and leg weary. Quite how the management team went about their week long ‘refresh’ of the squad will remain a Colney secret, but it clearly worked.
Or maybe I’m just thinking too much… that United are in town is usually motivation enough.
Whatever the reason, there was a verve and energy about City’s performance that – from minute one – told us they were ‘on it’. The tackles were being snapped in; the shape was being retained; the tempo was high; and Fergie’s gum was taking a bashing as he prowled the edge of that technical area.
All of them were tell-tale signs that maybe – just maybe – we were on the cusp of another of those unforgettable Carrow Road occasions.
When Anthony Pilkington’s header looped gloriously over a flapping Lindegaard, the old place typically erupted – and yet it was no more than we deserved. Such had been our foothold in the game, when it arrived the feeling was one of elation, but also one of relief. Relief that our good work had finally produced – even though there were still 30 minutes to endure (plus the dreaded Fergie time).
If Jonny Howson’s late cameo had been capped off with a goal – instead of a near miss – those final few minutes could have been joyous. Instead, the agony and angst that those present – and those watching and listening from afar – experienced was something that will remain with us all for some time.
Referee Anthony Taylor saved his best contribution of the match for the 94th minute, when he finally called a decision correctly and gave a short, shrill blast on his whistle.
For the second time in the evening, Carrow Road erupted – but this time there was no tinge of concern for what may lie ahead. Instead a mixture of relief, unbridled joy and ecstasy engulfed the place in a way that hadn’t been seen since… well, 20th October.
We could get used to this couldn’t we?
If that feeling of victory wasn’t sweet enough, the less than magnanimous way in which the United supporters responded to defeat merely added to it. Inside the ground their response to going 1-0 down was appalling – did they even make a murmur? And on the message-boards it was arguably even worse.
Clearly not good at taking defeat, no-one was spared their wrath. Sir Alex; Ryan Giggs; Ashley Young; Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia were all singled out for special mentions and – sadly – most contributors played directly into the hands of those who view them as arrogant and insular.
There was little acceptance that City actually played well, instead comments such as, ‘… literally all Norwich did was try quite hard. Most of their players are basically devoid of any ability yet they still managed to cause us trouble.’
Or the equally considered, ‘… a midfield of Anderson and Cleverley would have torn Norwich apart.’
How dare we, eh?
I’ll leave almost the final word to my dad, a Carrow Road veteran of circa 70 seasons. As we walked out of the River End he summed it up in one sentence…
‘This is the reason we come Boy’.
And he’s right… as always.