In terms of performance level, that was light years ahead of the first two post-lockdown offerings. Against Southampton and Everton there was little to excite and even less to be proud of, but not so last night.
Okay, so it may have ended in that glorious, heart-breaking failure in which our club seems to specialise, but after two offerings that barely hit lukewarm, this was one that restored some missing pride.
Ultimately though, it was still another crushing disappointment to add to a very long list and, like most of us I’d imagine, I just want season 2019/20 to be over and done with.
The optimists will cite last night’s showing as the new benchmark and claim that more of the same could yet see us creep to 17th, but realistically our season ended as Harry Maguire slid in that late winner.
As Lineker cruelly reminded us: ‘Tough few weeks ahead for Norwich’.
Just as it had been a tough evening for him, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright. Imagine having to have to watch Norwich City for 120 minutes, while trying to find something constructive or even nice to say.
Luckily for them, they didn’t have to suffer the ignominy of having to travel to Norwich like poor Jermaine Jenas, but can instead look forward to the delights of Shearer’s home city as today they have a proper game to cover.
And if that sounds like me being a little bitter, yep, you got it.
For the second live MotD in four days, Lineker could scarcely contain his contempt for little Norwich, while his two cohorts could barely disguise – well, didn’t bother to disguise – their lack of interest in all things Norwich City.
Given how half-ar$ed they were when attempting the lightest-touch critique on camera, imagine their thoughts on our lads and our club off camera.
I’ll not miss this.
Over the two games it’s become very obvious that the BBC experts are really nothing of the sort when it comes to Norwich City, and that the few edited highlights they are offered to mull over on the regular MotDs are really all they see of us.
No insight, no knowledge of the way our team is set up to play, wrong names, but platitudes aplenty (yes, ironic I know), and the occasional compliment of ours being a ‘well-run club’.
Exhibit A: the way Jenas and Wright both lamented Jamal Lewis – who was outstanding by the way – for the way he bombs down that left side, in the space cleverly vacated by Todd Cantwell, but refuses to whip in a hopeful cross.
Except, Jamal and Max Aarons never bomb down their respective wings and blindly sling in a cross into “an area”, or – and I’m amazed neither thought of it – “the corridor of uncertainty”.
Anyone who’s paid even the slightest attention to how we play over the last three seasons will know that’s the very last thing Jamal or Max will do
The only surprise was that Shearer didn’t dive in with, “they just need to get it in the mixer”.
But it wasn’t just the Beeb’s finest who found it hard to find the right words to describe City’s efforts on the night. Manchester United’s finest did too.
Post-match interviews with “goalscoring hero” Harry Maguire and Ole Gunnar Solkjaer failed to register a single Norwich City mention – as though United had just beaten an invisible opponent – with neither able to quite put their finger on why United were unable to blow their nameless opponents out of the water.
I’ll tell you why, lads. It’s because Norwich played well.
They were well organised, structured, executed Daniel Farke’s plan to the letter, played with spirit, refused to be cowed by more illustrious names and created several good chances while it was still 11 v 11.
Even Jenas had to admit that in the second half of normal time, prior to Timm Klose’s sending off, City looked the more likely to score. He had to, because they were.
But, as ever, when the margins are fine, we do have an uncanny knack of coming out the wrong side.
The first United goal was, as they say, messy, and while Ighalo’s finish was a good one, how the ball got to him had a very familiar look and feel to it. The same could be said of Maguire’s winner, although by then it was inevitable one would eventually fall to a United boot.
The evening’s decisive moment came when Klose managed to get himself wrong side of Ighalo one millisecond after Ben Godfrey had made an ill-judged attempt to get a toe-in before the ball arrived at the feet of Bruno Fernandes.
Both got it slightly wrong and the upshot, in almost the blink of an eye, cost City the game. There can be no complaints about Klose’s sending off. It was as nailed-on as they come.
Unfortunately it gave Lineker yet more ammunition for more Klose jokes – which, of course, we all found hilarious. Timing Gary.
Barely warranting a mention however was an absolutely outstanding performance Tim Krul – one that if it had been in the United goal would have had the pundits positively drooling.
I’ll say it for them – he was simply magnificent and United should count themselves very lucky that we didn’t mange to take it to penalties. He was in Tottenham mode-plus, and I’d loved to have seen him given the chance to give Pogba and co the treatment as they strode up to take their pens.
That Jermaine decided to give man-of-the-match to a decidedly average and not exactly over-worked Harry Maguire instead of Krul was a perfect representation of Jenas’s evening. As Lineker would have put it… it was a Krul, rotten joke.
Even Wrighty noticed.
There were plenty of good performances other than Krul’s though, and fair play to Lukas Rupp whose taken his fair share of stick of late. The German rose to the occasion in a more central role and showed us, almost for the first time, what Farke sees in him.
A trio of attacking midfielders that includes Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia needs some grit and oomph. Rupp provided it and provided it well. That he left the action early due to a hip injury summed up City’s level of fortune nicely. So too Cantwell – who was excellent even before he scored that goal – who also exited early due to an abductor injury.
Alex Tettey deserves a mention too. At 35, he’s playing the best football of his career as the defensive shield and also slotted in seamlessly as Godfrey’s centre-back partner – a role he’s likely to have to undertake at the Emirates on Wednesday.
So, at last one to be proud of, even if it did end predictably. But let’s get this over as soon as. Then we can return to the bosom of Colin Murray – someone who actually gets us.
We’re on our way, Col.