As Norwich entertain Manchester United in search of three crucial points, Seb Ward suggests they can take inspiration from Bryan Gunn and the team of the 1980s who loved doing the double over the Red Devils
I’ve constructed a list of all the reasons why Norwich will beat Manchester United this Saturday. It is as follows:
1) We’ve won the last three times in which we've swapped the Aviva logo for that of a charity. On Saturday Aviva will make way for British Red Cross, though the slogan #ERapp has about as much presence in the box as Norwich's strike force have all season.
2) Cameron Jerome has scored in and won 100% of the games he’s played against United this season.
3) Robbie Brady’s shaved his head, so now he’s well ’ard.
4) England are oversubscribed in the striking department and they need a reason not to take Wayne Rooney to the Euros (other than the fact he’s the least exciting of the five). Losing to Norwich would do the job, right?
5) Dieumerci Mbokani needs to impress all the clubs he intends to move to next season.
6) Seb Bassong’s done a rallying call.
So that’s that then. We’re going to bloody win, aren’t we?
Wait! Just before you head down to the bookies, it might be worth noting that Norwich haven’t won on the telly all season. Did I mention that our match is on the box this weekend? Oh – well it is. Lucky us. The whole nation can watch us squeal and squeak.
There was a time when watching your team on the telly was quite a novelty. There was also a time when Norwich had something of a hoodoo over United. How things have changed.
Between 1988 and 1990 City won a remarkable five consecutive matches in the First Division against them. Behind most of those famous victories was a distinctive figure, often dressed in some abstract and highly-collectable ’80s goalkeeper jersey. The man between the sticks: Bryan Gunn.
It’s a funny old story. Gunn knew Alex Ferguson from his time at Aberdeen. In fact, ‘knew’ probably doesn’t quite sum it up. It turns out the ’keeper was trusted as Ferguson’s babysitter. The chemistry was there, but Ferguson had his favourite, and Gunny wasn’t it. Scottish international Jim Leighton was.
But then along came Norwich. Little old Norwich. With a flick of the wrist and a signature on the dotted line, Gunn joined Norwich – like today, back in Division One after a single season in Division Two – in the Autumn of 1986. It would have been earlier had Ferguson not delayed the transfer while his prized Leighton was injured.
Ironic then that Fergie packed his bags and headed off to United just a month later. And guess what? Poor Fergie wanted Jimmy back. But poor Fergie would have to wait. And poor old Aberdeen wanted Gunny back. But poor old Aberdeen weren’t getting Gunny back, because Norwich had rejected a bid of £500,000. That was quite a lot back then, of course, but not as much as the three-quarter million pound price tag Ferguson paid to reunite himself with Leighton. Ferguson’s favourite, good and proper.
So it was only right that Gunn experienced the sweet taste of revenge. Well, it’s unlikely there was any bad blood between them but having played second fiddle to Mr Leighton for the entire time back in his hometown, it was time to show Ferguson his new home: Norwich. Little Old Norwich.
Eleven yellow-and-green shirts – Gunn, Ian Culverhouse, Mark Bowen, Andy Linighan, Trevor Putney, Jeremy Goss, Mike Phelan, Robert Fleck, Kevin Drinkell, Dale Gordon, Ruel Fox – stepped out at Old Trafford in December 1986 to deliver a belated Christmas present: A one-nil victory. A clean sheet. A grimace on the face of Fergie. It would happen again two years later, and again the year after that – as Norwich did a double double in 1988-89 and 1989-90, Leighton letting in eight goals, Gunn just two – and saving a penalty at Old Trafford
Fortress Carrow Road™ also proved an unhappy hunting ground as United lost in four consecutive seasons, with the final occasion being the pick of the bunch: an FA Cup 5th round tie in February 1991 many of you will remember well. And as the match report of the day exclaimed, “Bryan Gunn’s fingertip save from Mark Hughes two minutes from time spared his side a daunting Old Trafford replay” – and probably drew a regretful sigh from Ferguson too.
The report went on to claim that “City always look more dangerous with the ball on the deck”, a statement that rings resoundingly true today.
If Norwich are to get anything from the game on Saturday (and three points is almost an absolute requirement) they’ll need to do just that. Stop lumping it up to Mbokani and instead involve Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond as much as possible. Perhaps Brady can channel his inner-Gunn and have his own revenge story, ridding himself of his recent slump in form. After all, he now looks well ’ard.
Or perhaps we could win on the basis that we’ve grafted, played well and taken our chances when they’ve materialised, rather than relying on one of the silly fallacies listed above. Oh, and Bassong – forget the press – do the talking on the pitch.
Live to fight another day, like the newly promoted boys of ’86, or die. Those are our options.
You can follow Seb Ward on Twitter at @Seb_Ward
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