Manchester United: Picking a Starting XI to Beat Norwich City
With the monumental Champions League round of 16 second leg clash with Real Madrid looming on the horizon, Sir Alex Ferguson must first turn his attention to the weekend's Premier League fixture.
The last time these two teams met, the Canaries shocked United with a 1-0 win at Carrow Road thanks to an Anthony Pilkington goal.
Many will expect Sir Alex to rest a number of his top players on Saturday, but with the exception of the very bruised Robin van Persie and the wrinkled Rio Ferdinand, this is unlikely.
Players like Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Nani are in need of game time to get themselves playing their best football again.
Besides, the notion of three day's rest being detrimental to a side is more of a myth than one founded on reality.
If the Red Devils' best are incapable of playing twice in this time span, then they are seriously unfit.
It is for these reasons that I have chosen possibly the strongest available XI to beat Norwich, an encounter that should be treated as more than just a warm-up for Tuesday's mammoth showdown.
In goal is Spanish keeper David de Gea, who has quite frankly been flawless through the month of February.
He has excelled not just in the art of unbelievable reflex saves, but in his overall confidence and command of his penalty area as well.
I have Rafael at right-back, who enters the game off the back of perhaps his finest moment in a United shirt to date. His stunning goal against QPR received plenty of media attention in the aftermath of the game, but fans of the club have been declaring him the most improved Red of the season for months now.
Jonny Evans, who I recently deemed the most underrated central defender in Europe, partners Vidic in the back line, giving Rio Ferdinand the day off in preparation for the Real game.
We can only speculate as to which of the three will start the Champions League second leg, as all have been terrific this term when fit.
Vidic's strength and physicality will be key to stopping the equally solid Grant Holt, who scored a late winner for Norwich against Everton last weekend.
The Serbian captain seems to have finally shrugged off the nagging knee injury that plagued his 2012 at exactly the right time.
At left-back is Patrice Evra, the man whose return to form has been one of the best storylines of United's season. The Frenchman will do battle with Robert Snodgrass during the game, one of several key battles across the pitch.
The Scottish winger got the best of the Frenchman the last time these two sides met, something Evra will be keen to put right.
On the right flank I foresee Nani starting. Sir Alex will be keen to have the Portuguese winger, who is in sore need of game time, firing for the Real game.
His stunning goal against Reading in the FA Cup and piercing assist for Ryan Giggs' strike against QPR in his previous two appearances suggests he is close.
Any one of Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young or Shinji Kagawa could start on the left side of midfield, but I have plucked for the latter.
This should not be a reflection on Giggs' recent displays for the Red Devils, rather that his fantastic form should see him play on Tuesday night rather than on Saturday afternoon.
Ashley Young on the other hand has had a very mediocre campaign at Old Trafford, failing to impress despite working his socks off during games.
Kagawa is far from being certain to face Real, but he should be given the chance to prove himself worthy of the opportunity.
Wayne Rooney starts in his now familiar playmaking role in attacking midfield, though he is likely to push up alongside Javier Hernandez when the team is on the front foot.
The Mexican, Chicharito earns a nod over Danny Welbeck up front following his goal scoring outing at Loftus Road last weekend.
Sir Alex has been a little harsh in his use of Hernandez this season, though with so many excellent options in attack, rotation has been the necessary course of action.
His pace and awareness in the box could be a deciding factor in the final scoreline.
So there you have my preferred starting XI to beat Chris Hughton's side.
Agree or disagree, I'm sure you'll be doing well if you can predict the exact team Sir Alex will eventually deploy.
Who do you think will/should play vs. Norwich on Saturday?
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