Norwich City’s impossible dream of Premier League survival looks increasingly distant after defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United left them staring down the barrel at Championship football.
After spending so much of the season hovering perilously close to the relegation zone, the Canaries must know a miracle will be needed if they are to avoid the drop for the third time in just under 20 years.
The Canaries succumbed 3-2 to Liverpool last weekend despite a gallant fight-back, a result which put the Reds a step closer to their dream title but simultaneously pushed Norwich towards a nightmare end to the season. Liverpool got off to a flyer after goals from Raheem Sterling and the ever-controversial Luis Suarez put them two up after just 11 minutes. Gary Hooper offered a smidgeon of hope with a rare goal, before Sterling got his second to put any hopes of a revival to bed. Even a Robert Snodgrass header was not enough to alter the inevitable, and as has been the way for Norwich this season, it proved to be too little, too late.
One area the Yellows may be left to rue was the sacking of Chris Hughton in early April. The Fulham game was dubbed ‘must-win’ by both sides before kick-off, but Hughton’s replacement Neil Adams cut a forlorn figure on the touchline as his side went down 1-0 at Craven Cottage. Question marks remain over the timing of the change, especially with no obvious replacement.
City’s travelling contingent may have shared some kind words with their Manchester United counterparts over the bizarre manner in which they have both chosen to part company with their respective managers.
However, if Norwich were buoyed by David Moyes’ acrimonious mid-week sacking, it would appear United were even more so. United caretaker boss Ryan Giggs admittedly handed the visitors an olive branch in starting Tom Cleverly over Juan Mata, but after a slow start from both sides, even that was not enough once United came to life through a Wayne Rooney penalty.
Spurred on by a rejuvenated Old Trafford faithful, Rooney doubled his tally before Mata came on as an impact substitution to score twice and make it 4-0. For all their troubles this season, once United awakened it provided a stark reminder of what has gone wrong at Norwich this season. After scoring against Liverpool, Hooper was dropped in favour of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who has notched up one goal in 26 appearances. City have not offered enough going forward all season, perhaps unsurprisingly with a collection of summer signings who promised fairly little and delivered even less.
Their predicament is made worse by the fact that the teams around them – Fulham, Cardiff, and even rock-bottom Sunderland – seem to be picking up points here and there, although Fulham threw away a two-goal lead against Hull.
With no let-up in the fixtures – Norwich’s remaining games pit them against Chelsea and Arsenal – it looks ever more likely that next season Carrow Road will not be graced by Arsenal, Tottenham or Manchester City, but Brentford, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough.