Manchester United travel to Norwich City on Saturday for the late kick-off at Carrow Road.
Ralf Rangnick is looking to make it two wins from two in the Premier League after United’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last week.
Changes will be made to the XI that ran out against Young Boys on Wednesday night, with all eyes on how United’s biggest stars get on versus an even weaker opponent in Norwich.
Ahead of what should be an exciting game for United fans, Norwich fan and editor of MyFootballWriter, Gary Gowers, spoke to Stretty News to share his thoughts on Brandon Williams and more.
Is there anything specific that Dean Smith needs to do that Daniel Farke couldn’t?
Gary: “Given that we’re bottom of the league and have been for almost all of the season, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that the answer to that question is emphatically, yes.
“Under Daniel – for whom we have a lot of affection by the way – we were far too easy to play against. We were also to easy to play through and around. While Daniel could, with his eyes shut, put together a side that could stylishly win the Championship, he was some way short of cracking the code that would keep us in the Premier League. Way off.
“Farke’s idyllic view of the game – a team loaded with technicians who could pass the ball all day for fun – was fine when we were up against teams who were technically inferior, but failed miserably when we were faced with teams with better players – which happens every week in the PL. It also felt like we were a team of midgets in the Land of Giants, who always came second in the physicality, pace and power stakes.
“So, while there is little Dean Smith can do right now to change the oomph factor (or lack of it), he has been able to tinker with the formation and the personnel within it to make us a little tougher to play against. Crucially, he has also gone big on the mindset of the players who he wants to believe they are Premier League players and are there because they deserve to be. Under Daniel there was far too much forelock-tugging – especially against the likes of you guys, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City etc.”
Both teams have changed managers recently. Do you think Smith has enough to avoid relegation this season?
Gary: “Probably not, but I’m pretty sure we’ll give it a better go than we would have done if Farke was still in situ. We may even take it to the wire. The trouble is the planets have to align perfectly for us to avoid the drop as well as us being back by a fair wind and stumbling into a field of four-leaf clovers.
“Our lack of resources puts us at a huge disadvantage when compared to the other 19 in the division, and so even the Smith/Shakespeare combo with their new ideas will be hard pressed to see us avoid the drop.
“It can be done. of course, and Smith will make sure we give it a proper go but, by Premier League standards, he’s very much working in silk purse/sow’s ear territory.”
Brandon Williams has been in and out of the team since joining from United on loan. What have you made of his performances?
Gary: “He’s been good, particularly under Smith, although in fairness he had a stormer at Brentford in Farke’s final game. Our aforementioned lack of ‘bite’ is less evident when he’s in the team because, as you know, he likes a tackle but him being naturally right-footed is not always a perfect fit for him at left-back in the games where we have a lot of the ball. Through no fault of his, on those days it doesn’t flow as well as it does when Giannoulis (a natural left-footer) is at left-back. Smith looks as though he’ll keep on with the horses for courses approach in that position.
“But overall I’d give Williams a solid 7/10 and he’s certainly warmed the hearts of the locals with his intensity, the odd crunching challenge and his refusal to take a backward step. We like that side of his game because it’s not something we don’t see too much of.”
Who has been Norwich’s player this season?
Gary: “Easy one – Mathias Normann. The problem is he’s only here on loan and will only be staying in Norfolk if we stay up (so, I’m guessing he’s renting). He’s added something extra to the base of our midfield in terms of his range of passing and his ability to mix it when needed. Unfortunately (for us), he has an ongoing pelvic problem which flared in the recent draw against Wolves, so I suspect he’ll be missing on Saturday. Good for you, bad for us.
“Max Aarons is another who’s got better and better as the season’s gone on but we don’t like to shout about it for obvious reasons. Actually, pretend I never mentioned it.”
Finally, how do you see the game going?
Gary: “Hhmm… well the Norwich supporter in me sees it not going particularly well. I suspect we’ll have our moments but when those moments come along we’ll not be ruthless enough to take any half-chances that may come our way. I also suspect we’ll gift you a soft goal and then huff and puff quite a lot before making very little headway against your back four.
“With Normann and Milot Rashica both likely to be out, our midfield – both defensively and offensively – has a Championship hue to it and so we lack in craft and invention, especially when coming up against the big boys.
“Heart says 2-2; heads says 0-2 (so it’ll probably be 0-3).”