Norwich Club Focus – Lambert searches right balance for Man Utd clash

After two consecutive victories in the league, Norwich City winger Elliott Bennett has stated the teams confidence, ahead of the challenge they face at Old Trafford on Saturday against league leaders Manchester United.

“Hopefully we can go there and give a really good account of ourselves like we have done in the previous games,” said the former Brighton and Hove Albion winger ahead of the fixture. ”Hopefully our hard work and the football we play can pay off, who knows? Anything can happen, it’s 11 players against 11 at the end of the day.”

This interview is an indication of the confidence of the players that has been instilled by Lambert. However, there are concerns within the support that Lambert’s tactics may backfire at Old Trafford. “We defend too deep on occasion,” say some supporters. “If we go to Old Trafford with the sole target to defend, we will be picked off by United’s attack.” However, should Lambert choose to go more attack-minded, he risks facing Manchester United’s famously deadly counter-attack.

So Lambert must try to find a balance that will help contain the United attack, without putting the defence under too much pressure. He may choose to remove the wingers including Bennett out of the starting eleven, and go for a back five, with two strikers and a packed midfield. Whilst this team will lack width, it will certainly help to contain United’s thriving attack. Or he could keep the wingers in the squad, leaving out Holt once again and keeping the in-form Steve Morison. This four-five-one formation has helped the Canaries to their victories against Bolton and Sunderland, so Lambert may be tempted to keep the faith in his players.

Lambert will also be boosted by the return of defender Zak Whitbread to full fitness, which will help strengthen his backline, particularly as loanee Ritchie De Laet is unavailable to face his parent club. Whitbread hasn’t featured since the Chelsea game, but was present throughout most of the promotion season. De Laet has received a mixed response from the Canaries supporters, they will be glad to see Whitbread return.

For many of these fledgling Norwich stars, a trip to Old Trafford will provide vital experience, with many of them coming from the lower leagues. Players such as Anthony Pilkington, formerly of Huddersfield Town and Stockport County, and Steve Morison, who was playing for then non-league Stevenage Borough just two years previously, will see this as a fairytale. Norwich fans will be anxious to see which of these inexperienced players will be able to cope with the big occasion. Whilst the Canaries gave a good account of themselves at Chelsea, the Champions will pose a different threat, with the likes of Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney to contend with.

The trip to Old Trafford will not only be a memorable experience for the players but for the fans also, who only two years ago were travelling to the likes of Yeovil Town and Oldham Athletic in the league, and now are facing the English Champions. Bennett is confident the team can prove their Premier League pedigree on Saturday, and should they manage a result here, few will be able to argue that Norwich are well worth their place in England’s top division.

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