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24 December 2015

City finally get their rewards against United

In the latest edition of his monthly blog, Senior Club Journalist Ben Mouncer reflects on City's early Christmas present at Old Trafford.

THE WEATHER gods may have forgotten it’s Christmas, but even if we had been dealt with a cold winter I suspect Norwich fans would still be enjoying a warm, contented feel as the big day approaches.

Last Saturday’s historic win at Old Trafford was the perfect result at the perfect time for the club’s players, staff and supporters.

Alex Neil’s team haven’t often had the breaks they’ve deserved in the last couple of months, and headed to Manchester occupying a bottom three spot for the first time since the opening day.

Given the cluster of Premier League matches scheduled and its proximity slap bang in the middle of the football calendar, ‘the festive period’ is billed as an indicator of your club’s fortunes for the second half of the campaign, a test of mettle for the challenges ahead.

City got their examination off to a flying start. I had a hunch we would upset a giant in their own backyard this season and where better to do it than at the mother of all giants, the ‘biggest football club in the world’ as United boasted through their speakers before the game.

After withstanding some pressure in the initial half hour and ultimately not conceding the first goal (which, as Neil has stressed many times, is vital at the top level), the Canaries suddenly came into their own. As the crowd quietened and the possession bar evened, you saw their confidence increase.

The incisive, certain football of the late summer and early autumn returned and was exhibited for Cameron Jerome’s goal, the striker’s third strike of season down to the quick-thinking of Russell Martin, Alex Tettey and Nathan Redmond.

Tettey's best moment was still to come, of course, but City’s wider performance in that second half merits praise. They carried a consistent counter-attacking threat alongside their defensive stubbornness, the balance that Neil has been striving towards for a while.

Ahead of the Boxing Day meeting with Tottenham, the manager has reiterated the need to push on and secure similar results.

“It's crucial,” he told Norwich City TV. “That's what it's all about in the Premier League; when you're performing well, you're making sure that you're picking up maximum reward.”

That will all come post-Christmas Day, though. For now, we can all enjoy the festivities, knowing that if we need a pick up between lunch and the cold turkey sandwiches, those Old Trafford highlights will do the job.

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