Norwich City’s Gary Hooper can hold his own with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney in the goal stakes
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Chris Hughton was quick to point out Wayne Rooney is not the only in-form striker on show this weekend at Carrow Road.
Wayne Rooney took his tally to 13 goals for club and country this season with a thumping finish in Manchester United's Boxing Day win over Hull but Norwich City's prolific marksman Gary Hooper has struck five in eight ahead of a meeting between two of the finest English-bred top flight predators.
'Technically you always felt he would score goals at this level,' said Hughton. 'The obvious answer as to why Gary is scoring goals right now is the fact he is playing games after his injury. Physically he is in very good shape and if he is and playing regularly then he is always likely to score, but he relies on service as well as creating something out of nothing as he has done with his last two goals.
'You only have to look at his CV and that tells you he is someone who has always scored goals and when you are that type of individual it really is whether you handle the next level. We mustn't forget he played in some very big games for Celtic in recent seasons and I think that has helped him to adjust to how difficult and how strong the Premier League is.'
Hughton will not overlook the obvious latent threat posed by Rooney and David Moyes' thoroughbreds.
'He is someone at the moment who I feel is back to his very best. He has been outstanding for them,' he said. 'That is good news for Manchester United but also England. Is he is a special player? Yes, but we hope he doesn't have one of his better days and it is up to us to make sure that doesn't happen. They have picked up after a difficult start and that comes with a change of manager. I'm sure he went in there and had different ideas and there was a process where both the new manager and those players had to get used to each other.
'What doesn't alter is they have top class players so it is no surprise they are picking up results. They are still in the title race for me and there are a few strong contenders. We know it is a big task. Manchester United have the quality and the squad to make changes but it is an opportunity for us to perform at home. It is a game that will lift the supporters.'
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Concerns over the fitness of Jonny Howson allied to the on-going absence of Alex Tettey place even greater emphasis on the likes of Bradley Johnson and Leroy Fer in a key central midfield area. Moyes is a confirmed admirer of City's Dutch international after trying to sign him while in charge at Everton 12 months ago, before a proposed deal fell through, but Hughton does not expect that to provide any extra motivation.
'I believe he tried to sign him at Everton and there was a big interest,' he said. 'But he wanted to come here and overall Leroy has done well for us. We have been delighted. His game is adjusting from a technical game in Holland and we hope there is more to come from him. He is still 23 and when you go to another country at maybe 27 or 28 you bring vast experience. When he is on the back of maybe not one of his better performances he has shown in the next game he can get back to that level of performance. If I look at both him and Brad they were very good at Sunderland and we need that pair to get back to that high level.'