What a season this has become for the Canaries
Paul Lambert's Canaries suffered a second humiliating hammer blow on Sunday. Having bowed meekly out of the FA Cup, succumbing on home turf to injury-hit Championship strugglers Leicester City on their previous outing, Norwich registered an unenviable back-to-back loss, this time with yet another Premiership failure.
A 4-0 trouncing at the hands of League One minnows MK Dons back in August saw the ailing Norfolk outfit crash out of the Carling Cup at the first hurdle, so the Carrow Road faithful are now left with only shattered dreams of Wembley and the prospect of a less than bountiful summer harvest of mid-table mediocrity.
On Sunday, far from being no county for old men, Norfolk proved to be a happy hunting ground for a Manchester United side fielding players of an age to be Declan Rudd's dad.
The latest reverse had Norwich returning to the form of barely a month ago when they ran up the white flag at the Stadium of Light, rolled over 3-0 by a Sunderland side that had so recently ditched its manager Steve Bruce – a one-time Canary defender from the club's golden age – and had barely been much above the relegation zone all season.
In between times, a far from convincing 2-0 home win against an all but doomed Bolton Wanderers side preceded victory – if victory it can be called – by the narrowest of margins against a naive newly-promoted Swansea – the first Welsh side ever, however briefly, to join the ranks of the Premier League elite.
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The latest setback, against a geriatric Manchester United short of their Strepsil-struck talisman Wayne Rooney, leaves the moulting Canaries now languishing in an ignominious eighth place in the Premier League with no chance of rewarding their loyal yellow and green army with a much deserved sortie across the Channel which the Royal Norfolks fought so bravely to defend at Dunkirk.
With just a dozen games left in which to redeem themselves, the luckless Canaries sit on a lacklustre single digit count of wins against a motley collection of Premiership stragglers. A meagre five home victories have been notched up against the pre-O'Neill Sunderland, a Swansea side sadly short of any Welsh wizardry, QPR led by subsequently sacked Neil Warnock, a badly crocked Newcastle, and north west ne'er do wells Bolton.
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Scarcely creditable draws were earned – if earned is not too strong a word – against Merseyside Cinderellas, David Moyes' cash-strapped Everton; a woeful Wolverhampton Wanderers; Al Fayed's flakey Fulham and a Chelsea that for all their bling and bluster were never likely to shake off the �50 million shackle that is Fernando Torres.
Away from home, even the never less than 2,000-strong Y'Army, have so far been unable to lift a squad rotating so often as to vanish up its own diamond formation to more than a meagre four wins from 13.
As for Sunday's 1-2 reversal, it was a game of two halves; both of them United's. The Mancs' goals came one in each of them. The first, in only the seventh minute of the first half saw the 5' 7' Paul Scholes, 37 and lately returned from retirement, sly-ed behind Fox, 28, to head the ball beyond John Ruddy, 25.
The second came as a knackered Norwich gave way to 38 year-old Ryan Giggs' left foot putting in its 900th appearance for United in time, like his own advancing years, added on.
The filling in the sandwich between the goals had Bradley Johnson yellow carded for a challenge on Nani, who apparently has fresher breath than Joey Barton, and Grant Holt failing to do enough to secure an England second XI place against Holland last night. His 12-yard strike in the 84th minute was neutered by profligacy as he spurned the opportunity to draw level from a Surman cross in the 26th minute and again in the 34th, this time from a transparently brilliant ball supplied by the sometimes fragile but mostly glassy Pilkington.
Elsewhere, Ruddy saved red faces, Zak hacked and Simeon did the simple things well.
Naughton (sounds like Norton) camped in the home side's half, Wes blew a hooley until he ran out of wind while Aaron, descended from Abraham, Wilbraham failed to deliver a golden calf.
Ward, often handy in an emergency, was tentative and it has to be said that the jury's out on Drury who I suspect, if it wasn't for an extra R, might be suffering from too much sex and drugs and rock and roll.
As a disgruntled crowd shuffled its way home in the failing Sunday afternoon light, the managers summed things up.
'Yous were the better side today,' said Sir Alex. 'No, yous were,' patronised his countryman and apparently heir apparent, Paul Lambert, adding: 'But we're not safe yet.'
'No, you are most definitely not,' offered up Lee Dixon, aged nearly 48 and probably now too old to make a comeback, on Match of the Day 2 that evening.
One day – when we're a Man U, Liverpool or Arsenal or, like Man City and Chelsea, get bought by an oil-rich Sheikh or a Russian oligarch – they'll write about us like that. Then we will have made it in what they call the world's best league.
•This article was first published on March 1, 2012.