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United look to finish 2013 on a high

_71959401_459383507There is, the saying goes, no rest for the wicked. There definitely isn’t any rest for Manchester United nor for their traveling supporters who, having spent Boxing Day in the British City of Culture – that will be Hull, for those of you who missed out on that nugget of brilliance – will now embark on another long slog to Norwich.

Trips to Norfolk have been largely forgetful events in recent seasons, with United losing two of their last three at Carrow Road and, more worryingly, failing to get on the scoresheet in both of their defeats.

Things look rosier this season, with United mustering their first Fergiesque comeback of the Moyes’ era while Norwich managed to achieve the remarkable feat of not only losing at home to Fulham but they also allowed Scott Parker to get on the scoresheet and now hover just three points above the relegation zone.

Despite splashing almost £13m on strikers, Norwich’s front-men have been largely disappointing this season but were United to defend as diabolically as they did in the first 12 minutes against Hull, then Gary Hooper and Johan Elmander could soon be made to look like a combination of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Raul.

United’s back-four looked desperately shaky at Hull and with Rafael out injured and Antonio Valencia suspended, David Moyes could either opt to switch Chris Smalling to right-back, thus deploying either Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand alongside Jonny Evans or, albeit a less likely option, give Fabio a rare start in the team.

The midfield cover remains excruciatingly short, for having welcomed back Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick, United have lost Phil Jones to a knee injury which, theoretically at least, could open the door for a Carrick-Giggs partnership in the middle of the park, bearing in mind that Tom Cleverley and Fletcher played only 48 hours ago.

With Van Persie still nursing his injury, the front two pick themselves. Wayne Rooney has turned from villain into talisman and his strike at Hull was as good as any we’ve seen from the man with the worst agent in the world – or one of the best, depending on which side of the fence you sit – while Welbeck’s recent run of goals looks to have filled him with confidence, something Moyes will want to make the most of.

Ashley Young’s confidence has also sharply risen in recent weeks – almost as sharply as the majority of his overhit crosses fly harmlessly over the box – and with Nani and Valencia out, Young is a shoe in for a starting spot, particularly given that we still do not know whether Shinji Kagawa survived his Christmas dinner.

The boy who comes from Belgium and whose name is Adnan – the Januzaj chant was the real Christmas number 1 as far as Reds were concerned – could also start and expect the locals to express their disappointment as soon as Januzaj wins a foul.

United are still eight points behind Arsenal, a far from an ideal position at this time of the year, but a run of five consecutive wins in all competition is not to be scorned at, particularly considering that the league leaders travel to Newcastle on Sunday, while the Champions of Christmas could drop points again, when they face Chelsea.

With Spurs at home on New Year’s Day and four days until the January transfer window, a win tomorrow would be crucial in more ways than one.