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.
Jim Davies says
A good summing up, Gary, particularly the references to the BBC’s version of the Macbeth’s three witches. At least Ian Wright disagreed with Jenas’s choice for man of the match. It was Tim Krul all the way, the only other choice might have been Cantwell. (did you know that the auto-correct on here tries to change Cantwell to Cantrell? It just did it again – maybe I’m paranoid, but it seems like no one wants to acknowledge us!)
I said to my wife just before their second goal, that whichever United player managed to scramble a winner would get given man of the match, despite us having more than one contender. Maybe I should have had a bet on.
Overall, I was pleased with the performance, and the pride and effort that our players displayed. If we’d made it through, it would have been very disappointing not to be able to go to Wembley for the semi-final, so we’ll just have to it again in more normal times, so I can maintain my record of seeing all of City’s matches there.
John Mitchell says
Thanks Gary, a performance to make us proud and Farke’s fourth Cup nail biter against big six megabucks opponents. Three broken hearts out of the four is about par for us.
But the wait for a Norwich FA Cup final appearance goes on. Our 26 top flight seasons without a single FA Cup final are more than twice as many as any other club (and anyone who can name the two with 12 years in the top tier and no cup final is doing very well indeed).. We are surely the most overdue of any club for our day out in the Wembley sun.
Colin B says
Colin B says
Excellent article Gary.
How on earth a Norwich player did not get man of the match is beyond belief. Even Maguire in his post match interview said United played poorly. I thought Krul or Godfrey could have won it.
Yesterday the team showed their potential. There are several players who deserve to stay in the Premier League. Krul is Premier League standard but probably too old now to get another chance unless it is with us.
Aarons, Godfrey, Lewis, Buendia and Cantwell could all cut it in the Premier League, particularly if they could be more consistent and play in a team with better quality players.
I agree that Tettey is playing his best football. Farke has got him better prepared and coached. His passing is so much better.
McLean had a decent game but I don’t think he is quite up to Premier League technical standards. Rupp had a decent game although I would have liked to have seen Hernandez in from the start.
The biggest problem is that Pukki is not firing and Drmic is not good enough. Let’s hope Idah fulfils his potential.
Our luck has been out for most of this season, particularly with injuries.
We deserved a penalty shoot out on that performance and I have no doubt we would have won it.
I understand that Lineker earns £1.75 million per year. He is not worth anywhere near that amount. Is he worth about 60 nurses? It is not just MOTD that didn’t mention Norwich much. Look at the national papers pre match comments, which were all about Man Utd. Some never mentioned Norwich at all.
This has been an excellent read.
I sat watching with my Man U supporting wife and she was dreading a penalty shootout her comments were we have the better keeper.
The ex school teacher Ref really let Mctominay get away with a few naughty’s last night on Cantwell after the ball was gone and a couple of other united players went to ground very easily.
City finally turned up and with a few clubs above us still falling short it could be an interesting few games, I know the whole league have written us off and many of our own supporters have also but how great it would be to defy the odds and prove what little O Norwich is about.
Let’s go down fighting last night city proved they have enough about them to give it a go just a pity there weren’t supporters in the ground to cheer them on.
Onwards and upwards
Keep safe and well
Thanks Gary. You got a few BBC things off your chest there ! As you say after Soton and Everton that performance was a real step up and a great credit to the players. We showed spirit and battled well after going down to 10 men. No question about the sending off, but if we still had any lingering hopes of a miracle that surely was the final nail. I’m still not sure what Drmic brings to the party; wld have preferred Idah to have been given a go.
One of the commentators did say Norwich was a lovely City, which deserves some credit !
Mick Dennis says
‘Wrighty’ is a genuine lovely guy, but he’s famously allergic to doing any prep. Lineker took lessons when started presenting but he and Shearer — who was deliberately, rudely, brusque with the media before joining them! — think reciting a few match stats that have been given to them that morning is sufficient ‘home work’.
They all believe that their careers gave them all the knowledge they will need during a live game.
As with dramas about places or occupations with which we’re familiar, watching Match Of The Day from the Carra exposed how wrong outsiders can get things.
I was most disappointed with main commentator Steve Wilson. Most of the non ex-player commentators and presenters I know work hard before games to give themselves an understanding of the circumstances which will provide the context of the game they’re going to cover. Yet Wilson (a decent, amiable guy) ad-libbed about hoping Daniel Farke won’t bear the brunt of relegation, conspired with Jenas to misunderstand how our fullbacks play and announced our new signing: “Tom Gerbill”.
If only he’d bothered to put in a bit of effort, it would not have sounded so much like a visit by a missionary from a far-off kingdom.
A little chat beforehand with Chris Goreham would have been sufficient for him to tell his audience that Daniel won’t be sacked, for instance.
Jim Davies says
Steve Wilson didn’t do that much homework, since he said that in the 58-59 season, Norwich had beaten United 3-0 at Ol Trafford, which was news to me as on January 10th 1959, I was standing on the terraces at Carrow Road watching Terry Bly stick two past them!
Neil Pearce says
I noticed that too. Poor research but we’ve come to expect that.
martin penney says
I had the privilege of meeting “Wrighty” when he was still a player with Arsenal and he was just a wonderful character. He spent more time talking to me and my then girlfriend [who was a Gooner] and could not have been more pleasant. She got an autograph – I didn’t want one and we had a good old laugh about that. No pics – it was yonks ago.
The nicest BBC guy I ever met was Motty. We started off wrong as I was the local journo when he was live to camera with Graham Taylor and told me to pi$$ off until he’d finished.
Shortly afterwards [after I’d spoken with Taylor myself] he spent time explaining the pecking order as it was then and gave me quite a few useful tips.
The only others of that ilk I have met are father and son Peter [no longer with us] and Matthew Lorenzo, who were utterly wonderful. I worked alongside Matt for a while and I can assure you there isn’t a nicer guy around.
I can understand why Lineker et al grate, but their job is to simply cater for mainstream tastes.
In fairness, I though the BBC’s build-up to the Everton game was decent, going into detailed stats about our possession / chances created, while Jonathan Pearce had clearly done some sightseeing and waxed lyrical about the fine city.
You’re spot on re Colin Murray though, the guy is an absolute pro and strikes the right balance between in-depth analysis and not taking himself or the game overly seriously.
As for the game, gutting to lose it so late but had resigned myself to defeat after Klose’s sending off. Just glad to see some fighting spirit back in the ranks and hope it can lead to some restored pride in the league.
Spot on Gary and far more polite about the BBC shower than I would be.
They obviously don’t understand the concept of neutrality when commenting on football.
They’re not very professional and have turned BBC football coverage into a very embarrassing lads club. Definitely time for a refresh.
Finally it was good to see a wholehearted performance from City. Had the pundits known anything about football Krul would have received the man of the match award!
David McKenzie says
Great read Gary, unfortunately I can’t comment on the Lineker et al lack of knowledge and refusal to give us any recognition as i long ago gave up watching motd and as soon as they start talking i have to mute the TV as it just angers me the total disregard they have for us.
Is it wrong that I look forward to us being in the championship not only for Colin Murray but for the thought we have something to play for, something we have a realistic chance of winning.
Keith B says
Like others I don’t listen to the Linneker/Shearer/Wright stuff; interesting insight into the way they work, or don’t, from Mick Dennis. I remember hearing Robbie Savage talking about how staggered he was at the amount of work one of the commentators he was paired with on Five Live does (I think it was John Murray, who is always very well informed and generally seems to enjoy trips to Carrow Road).
In both Wednesday and last night’s games I thought Martin Keown and Jermaine Jenas were much better informed than their commentators, and able to understand how we are run as a club and certainly aware of our injury issue all season, which many neutral viewers would not be.
I thought the point Jenas was making that they SHOULD try putting a cross in from time to time and see what happens. It might evade our own players, find two or three defenders getting in each other’s way, fly loose off one of their legs and fall to our striker. Just like United’s first goal in fact. Whether or not he knows we don’t generally do that isn’t the point; he’s right.
Colin Murray is a top guy though. Have seen him recording Dictionary Corner slots for Countdown and he comes across as a very easygoing bloke, although I suspect he’s as hard as nails below the surface. He talks to anyone, has some excellent anecdotes, and I think his secret really is that he’s interesting in everything that’s going on – sport or not.
Good stuff Gary, and thank you for saying what thousands of us NCFC supporters have thought about the BBC and their supposed “experts” regarding our club/team/set-up.
If only we’d played like that against Everton and Southampton…..4 or even 3 extra points at this stage (given how the rest of the stragglers are performing)woukld have made it really interesting.
However, I for one wish they’d just call it off now that LiVARpool have been confirmed as champions.
O T B C
Don Harold says
The BBC ignorance was superbly illustrated when Jenas and Wilson we’re talking some nonsense about Idah, and the camera panned to the subs’ area and focussed on the face of……Duda. It’s really not that difficult.
We were very unlucky but were again architects of our own downfall. Both goals involved us having 3 players as close to the ball as their one.
I can’t say Klose didn’t deserve the red card but I am certain McGuire would have got away with it.
Well said Don;
And am I the only one who thought that McTominay really did “leave something in” for Cantwell once or twice before he body-checked him out so long after the ball had gone, that it was almost a challenge in the next set of matches?
Would Tetts have got away with it (and Jon Moss)?? Somehow I doubt it!
O T B C
John Moss was a games teacher in Leeds and at the same school as a LIVARPOOL player who is known for retaliating before he gets fouled in the one and only James Milner who I was told had never been booked by him and that could be wrong.
Watford lose today strange relegation fight
Don Harold says
Does John Moss do a Michelin Man tribute act?
The foul on Cantwell would almost certainly have seen a Norwich player sent off