Manchester United will be desperate to get their season back on track as they welcome Norwich City to Old Trafford, with the visitors having fallen into the bottom three following several weeks of struggle.
The only option for United here is to win, which would at least provide a little festive cheer after a week which saw them take just one point in the league and exit the Champions League with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Wolfsburg. The squad in its current depleted state is far from one which is capable of challenging for major honours, and inexperienced youngsters are having to be thrown into the action under difficult circumstances, with Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson among those to make their debuts in recent matches.
Having such a lengthy injury list is undoubtedly making things difficult for manager Louis van Gaal, but some of his decisions of late have raised more than a few eyebrows. Taking off Juan Mata in Germany was one such occasion, while the withdrawal of Marouane Fellaini in the defeat at Bournemouth last weekend was another. Whatever the Dutchman decides to do in this one, he will come under severe pressure from the stands if he were not to oversee a victory.
Despite being inferior to an almost embarrassing extent in the first half against Everton in their last game, Norwich do deserve some credit for improving after the break and claiming a share of the points. Having been mightily fortunate not to be more than just than just the one goal behind, Wes Hoolahan forced in an equaliser and only a glaring miss from Cameron Jerome prevented the Canaries from picking what would have been a vital win.
Much of the damage that was done in that match was self inflicted, so if they can cut out the simple mistakes and defend strongly as a unit, there is no reason why Norwich can come away with something from this encounter. The key to success will be containing the pace of forward Anthony Martial and cutting off the supply line provided by Mata, which means that a lot of responsibility will be placed on holding midfielder Alexander Tettey to protect the two centre-backs.
There are some players back from injury for United, with captain Wayne Rooney set to feature while Ander Herrera and Chris Smalling are in contention. Bastian Schweinsteiger is still suspended.
This comes too soon for Norwich winger Matt Jarvis, who is back in training, and Andre Wisdom also misses out with a hamstring problem.
Last Meeting: Man Utd coasted to a 4-0 victory in April 2014 in the game that immediately followed the sacking of David Moyes. With Ryan Giggs in the technical area, Wayne Rooney scored either side of half-time as the visitors showed exactly why they were headed for relegation with a lame performance. Their bad afternoon was complete when Juan Mata also netted a brace with two close range efforts.
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