What did Dan Brigham and Jon Rogers learn from Norwich’s stunning first win at Old Trafford in 26 years? Well, stuff about Cameron Jerome, Nathan Redmond, Alex Neil, Gary O’Neil and some other things, that’s what
Let’s not over-celebrate
Yesterday was fantastic. Any game where you will never forget the goals, where you where, and the night after is always worth filing away under FUCK YEAH. They don't come along often.
But as wonderful as it was, let's not dine out on it for an age this time. It was three points. As a club, I want us to become accustomed to going to big teams and making their fans demand their manager is hung drawn and quartered. Make it an occurrance, so 89-page pull-outs and meetings to discuss releasing a DVD of the 90mins aren't the Plan A on the Monday.
So happily nibble on this particular piece of yummy cheese over Xmas. But, come Boxing Day, it's gone. JR
Welcome back, Nathan Redmond
Over the last month Redmond’s been like a man who has just been dumped – forgetting to deodorise, wearing the same jeans for a week, doing lots of staring. At Old Trafford it was like he'd found someone new and even better: he was reborn, his touch sure, his movement clever and his passing incisive. If there was space to be found, he often found it – perhaps training with Wes Hoolahan every week is finally rubbing off on him.
An on-his-game Redmond transforms this Norwich team, and huge kudos to Alex Neil for playing both him and Hoolahan at Old Trafford. DB
Neil’s tactics masterclass
I'm gonna try to talk tactics. Anyone who knows me, or has heard me on the podcast, I'm about as tactically aware as Jimmy Bullard's mum.
However, it was pretty obvious and intriguing to watch that at 2-1 up, Alex Neil and his team went 5-4-1 in response to Van Gaal going 2 up top.
Shut-up-shop formation. Or, as I like to call it, The Adele Ticket Hotline Formation. Try as you might, you aren't getting through.
Apart from Chris Smalling finding himself alone on the penalty spot in the 93rd a minute nd flinging his body to miss a gilt-edged, it worked. My god it worked: Stopped crosses. Crowded the space out for their talent. Made it all congested. Robbie Brady went to right back and hoofed it like the mad bastard in the pub team and Dieumerci Mbokani threw his elbows, shoulders, knees and toes about.
It was brave, aware, confident, powerful management from a 34-year-old.
Theatre of Dreams? Theatre of Schemes. Theatre of Tactical Schemes. Of football. JR
Has Neil found his best XI?
If someone had said at the start of the season that Gary O’Neil would be part of Norwich’s best XI, you’d have laughed, noticed they weren’t laughing and then laughed even harder. But the only games O’Neil hasn’t featured in since that 6-2 defeat at Newcastle is the home defeat to West Brom and the away loss at Watford. His calming influence, good array of passing and top-class professional fouling (he’s been booked in four of his last five games) have boosted Norwich’s midfield. It’s also kept Youssouf Mulumbu, who many believed would be one of the first names on the team sheet this season, out of the side – although he did look very assured when he came on at Old Trafford.
Ryan Bennett has been good at centre-back since he came in next to Seb Bassong, while Russell Martin’s on-pitch leadership and communication is probably just about enough to earn him a place ahead of Andre Wisdom or Steven Whittaker on the right – there isn’t much to pick between the three of them, after all.
Brady, Hoolahan, and Redmond’s mix of speed and tricky provides a truly dangerous attacking trio, with Jerome’s pace is looking increasingly important at this level (he was magnificent on Saturday, but Norwich are still in need of a good finisher. One with pace would be nice).
Their will be tweaks to be made depending on the opposition, and Jonny Howson should be given a central midfield place, but Neil may well have found an XI that successfully blends both defence and attack, character and ability. DB
Jerome loves the biggies
Cam Jam clearly comes alive on the biggest stage. Wembo. Old Traffo. So, bring him out for the big uns. We will win the league.
THAT is my Christmas Cracker of a Tip. Pull it. JR
We’re on a good run
Draws with Arsenal and Everton and a win at Manchester United in the last four games shows that things aren’t going so badly badly, really. The defeat at Watford was painful, not for the result – plenty of teams have been Watforded this season – but for the way the players failed to successful follow Neil’s gameplan. Thankfully, that performance is increasingly looking like an aberration, and five points against Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and United – with only six goals conceded – should be commended.
We’re by no means safe from relegation – no one’s saying that – but to have dropped into the bottom three for just one week during that run makes you wonder what on earth was going through the heads of those who genuinely wanted Neil sacked. Not a lot, probably. DB