Manchester United vs. Norwich: 5 Key Battles to Watch

Max TowleAnalyst IFebruary 27, 2013

Manchester United vs. Norwich: 5 Key Battles to Watch

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    Manchester United play host to Norwich City this Saturday as they continue to roll in the Premier League.

    The Red Devils currently sit 12 points clear of their city rivals at the top of the table, and they are showing few signs of surrendering that lead.

    Norwich enter the game off the back of a vital 2-1 win over Everton thanks to a late Grant Holt winner.

    Chris Hughton deserves plenty of praise for turning what appeared to be a weak squad on paper into a comfortable mid-table team this term.

    Here are five battles to watch that could prove key to which side comes out on top.

Javier Hernandez vs. Sebastien Bassong

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    Robin van Persie's rather painful fall into a TV cameraman during Manchester United's 2-0 win over QPR last weekend leaves him a doubt for the weekend's game.

    Even if he recovers in time, Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to risk perhaps his greatest asset ahead of the following week's Champions League tie with Real Madrid.

    Mexican striker Javier Hernandez impressed at Loftus Road, and he should be given the opportunity to maintain this form against Norwich.

    Sebastien Bassong will be the man charged with stopping the pacy Mexican from getting in behind the Canaries' defence, or at least slowing him down.

    It is a task few defenders in Europe would envy.

Wayne Rooney vs. Bradley Johnson

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    Having been one of the Red Devils' star performers through the first couple months of the year, Wayne Rooney has taken a slight dip in form in his last couple of games.

    He'll line up in attacking midfield against Norwich, the position that he has gradually made his own since van Persie's arrival last summer.

    Much of United's attacking burden will fall on the shoulders of Rooney, who will be required to use his excellent distribution skills in feeding the wingers and Hernandez through the middle.

    Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson have formed a surprisingly effective partnership in central midfield in recent games for the Canaries, with the former being the more defensive of the two.

    He is no Xabi Alonso, but nevertheless, Johnson isn't a player to be taken lightly.

Nemanja Vidic vs. Grant Holt

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    Having spent a torrid 2012 trying to recover from a horrible knee injury, Nemanja Vidic finally seems to be back fighting fit.

    The Serbian brute revealed this week: "After I had surgery, I knew we'd have to manage the knee and then after that it would be normal again. But it should be soon that I'll be ready for every match" (via The Mirror).

    It is no coincidence that the Red Devils' defensive record has dramatically improved since Vidic's return to regular, first team football.

    In their last nine games, Sir Alex Ferguson's side has conceded only five goals, keeping four very welcome clean sheets.

    Grant Holt will be Norwich's danger man up front, ready to commit to a very physical battle with the United captain.

Patrice Evra vs. Robert Snodgrass

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    The previous time Manchester United faced off against Norwich, Robert Snodgrass was allowed far too much space to run at the United defence and deliver dangerous crosses into the Red Devils' penalty area.

    Patrice Evra must do better against the Scottish winger, though if his recent form is anything to go by, fans of the Red Devils have reason to be optimistic.

    The Frenchman is currently in the midst of a true comeback season, not only improving as an attacking threat, but also shrugging off his previous defencive deficiencies.

    Snodgrass can be an effective player on his day, but he should only really prove a warm-up for Evra before his matchup against Angel Di Maria the following week.

Nani vs. Javier Garrido

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    If Nani is to earn a place in the United starting XI to face Real Madrid, he may have to deliver a noteworthy performance against Chris Hughton's side this weekend.

    After returning from the cold in his game-winning cameo in the 2-1 FA Cup win over Reading a couple of weeks ago, the Portuguese winger backed it up with a promising display at Loftus Road.

    He is still far from playing his best football, but with Antonio Valencia firing blanks, he is probably United's best bet on the right flank for the big games.

    Javier Garrido will start at left-back for Norwich, charged with keeping a lid on his opposite number.

    The former Manchester City man is a reliable presence in his team's back line, but like Norwich as a whole, he won't be expected to cause the Red Devils too much trouble.

     

    Who do you think will play a major part in Saturday's game?