Blimey… who saw that one coming?
Days like today are a rarity. Days like this one specifically haven’t been seen 30 August 1989, back when Gary Pallister, on debut, made himself an early target for the Old Trafford boo boys and the other Sir Alex was trying the patience of the Stretford End. Back when Thatcher was prime minister, beer was £1 a pint and Boris Gardiner (no, me neither) was number one with I Want To Wake Up With You.
Therefore make a note: ’19 December 2015 – Norwich City WIN at Old Trafford’. And breathe it in. Soak up every last, lingering memory of a special afternoon.
Surprisingly, to me at least, there were a few tweets doing the rounds this morning from folk who ‘had a good feeling’ about today, including one Darren Eadie.
Confession time: I scoffed.
For me it had all the makings of another ‘along came Norwich’ afternoon. United and LVG were desperate for a win, Wayne Rooney was back from injury and looking to mark his 500th game for the club with a goal, and each of our last three visits to Old Trafford had ended in 4-0 defeats.
Predictably, and understandably, every single pundit predicted a home win. None expected City to score a goal.
But my cynicism was unfounded. Alex and Frankie had other ideas. And a plan.
As it transpired, the plan was not dissimilar to those deployed at the Etihad and the Bridge but this time round the players finally cottoned on to the need to carry a genuine threat on the break. But still it hinged on solidity across the back four and midfield, with no big swathes of grass being left unoccupied, especially when they contained a Martial, a Mata, a Depay or a Rooney.
It required an approach that was obstinate, stubborn, well-organised and brave. And they delivered.
City were able to tap into the nervousness of the Theatre of Dreams and as the minutes ticked by without an opening goal so the disquiet gathered momentum. The Y’Army too made hay, with loud reminders to the United owners of a Portuguese manager who is currently unemployed. This merely added to the discord.
And then the twist.
City broke with purpose. Nathan Redmond toe-poked one into the path of Cameron Jerome. The rest is history.
With their noses ahead the faith of the City faithful was reignited. Alex never stopped believing but for some the belief had wavered.
Following our draw with Everton we observed, quite painfully, a Bournemouth win over LVG’s men. Watford too were pulling up trees. But we hadn’t joined the party. Amidst a topsy-turvy season with odd results the norm, City had done nothing of the unexpected. Our trajectory was southward and there was little sign of it being arrested.
But with one swoosh of Big Cam’s right foot the mindset changed. On the pitch, in the dugout and in that corner of Old Trafford that was, for a few hours, Norwich.
For the tourists, the Theatre of Dreams became the Theatre of Nightmares. LVG fidgeted in his seat. Giggsy offered only a thousand-yard stare.
The second-half was more of the same with United, not unsurprisingly, having the bulk of possession, but without ever seriously threatening Declan Rudd. Only when Chris Smalling nodded wide of Rudd’s left-hand post in injury time did they see the whites of his eyes.
Before then, City’s ‘number 13′ saved brilliantly from Juan Mata’s free-kick; in doing so prolonging – even solidifying – his tenure as the Canaries’ first-choice keeper.
But it was Alex Tettey’s 54th minute strike that proved the afternoon’s pivotal moment. Again Jerome was involved, this time seizing on to the Norwegian’s interception on half-way, and playing a perfectly weighted return pass.
Tettey’s finish was a tad ungainly but still fizzed past a bemused De Gea and United were faced with the ignominy of an uphill task against ‘little Norwich’. The embarrassment.
And from thereon in it was a case of keeping it tight, keeping the individual errors down to zero and not permit United and the Old Trafford crowd anything to seize upon.
Alas the pressure finally told and with Martin Olsson, for once, allowing a cross to loop in from the United right, Ryan Bennett and Robbie Brady permitted Martial room to squirm clear and fire home from close range.
The Alamo continued and, for a few fleeting moments, the Old Trafford crowd stirred from its slumber but this was City’s day. The day they finally arrived at the party .
Grumbles and sighs turned to boos upon the final blast of Michael Oliver’s whistle and for 73,000 the mood was ugly. The aforementioned corner that was for a few hours Norwich celebrated like it was 1989. And it was brilliant.
Of course, there are greater challenges ahead and, to put it into context, today was only City’s fourth win of the season – and this iteration is not the United of Sir Alex of Ferguson – but it was a result that has re-instilled the desire, even if some surgery is still needed in the January window. And has rekindled belief that the 2016/17 season can spent at the top table.
Let’s enjoy the moment. Today was a bloody good one.
“On the Ball City…”
Gary Field says
What a day!
Despite all their possession and eleven shots, only two were actually on target. United rarely threatened.
Make no mistake, this is a shadow of former United teams. That said, who really cares? Certainly not me.
For once we looked solid at the back, closed down well in midfield and managed to counter with a bit of pace and support for Jerome, who was immense.
Time for a bit of consistency in at Spurs, which is likely to be a much tougher test.
Douglas Millar says
A good all round performance. The errors were not eradicated as Alex neil claimed but a poor United side failed to capitalise.
What was impressive was the belief instilled by the manager that City could win. Well done cameron jerome who showed all of his strength in taking and making the goals. OTBC
Jim Davies says
The difference in the attitude of the two managers was interesting. Van Gaal stayed stuck firmly to his seat, taking copious notes, with the attitude “I’ve told the players what to do, it’s up to them to do it”‘ while Alex Neil was active at the pitch side throughout the game, instructing and adjusting tactics to suit what was actually happening (including switching Robbie Brady to right back late in the game). LVG doesn’t seem capable of making decisions “on the fly” (thank goodness). The new “Sir Alex” is learning, despite what Gormless Gordon said on Canary Call.
Russell Martin is a full back. This is our best current back 5 and it makes a difference when they play.
Premier League Pedant says
We gave the ball away so poorly in the first half, but luckily Utd were so toothless we got away with it. But I don’t want to be negative. I don’t care who’s top of the league, or who’s in or out of form, there’s something special about beating Man U. Those players are heroes, every one, but especially Tettey and Jerome, who both more than made up for recent errors.
This is great for the transfer window too. We’ve gone from bottom 3 side to team that wins at Old Trafford. Very important for attracting more quality, which we definitely still need.
Gary Gowers says
PLP (5) – Your last point is a good one. What is always a notoriously hard sell has been a made a tad easier by yesterday’s win, and you can be sure McNally will be using it in his pitch!
Keith B says
So as a manager Neil has now presided over a Hamilton win at Parkhead, a play-off final victory at Wembley and our first win at OT for 26 years. Pretty impressive!
Word gets around in football and I’ve no doubt that insiders such as agents will be very aware of his growing reputation. We must now look like a better option to join than, say, Swansea. That wasn’t the case 3 months ago.
Gradually Neil is coaxing good performances out of the lads against the stronger clubs; 4 points from the last 2 games is a good return.
What he has to do next is get us winning more home games against the lower or mid-ranking sides; not just dominating hem, but winning them.
At this stage of the season no specific game is a “must-win” because there are still other opportunities, as yesterday proved. But Palace, Stoke, Leicester and WBA took 10 points away from Carrow Rd.
Villa and Southampton are next to visit those are surely the kind of games we must learn how to win to give ourselves the best chance of survival.
Indeed Keith B, we need to be winning against some of the sides you would class as outside the top 6. We were robbed by the referee against Palace and Butland was outstanding for Stoke. The way Leicester are playing, I don’t see many teams beating them unless Vardy suffers an injury.
I’d love to see us win our next 2 home games and would love at least 1 point on Boxing Day!!!
Derek Piercey says
This Utd side may be a shadow of their former selves but, before yesterday, they were unbeaten at home and had only conceded one goal at OT all season.
I agree with Claire (4) about the defence, I’d also like to see a bit more consistency in selection from now on.
But, we have 17 from 17. That’s just about what we need. Add a bit more in January, keep the faith and we will be fine.
Woodton Canary says
KB you forgot to mention that AN also presided over two important local derby victories against Ipswich…