‘Let’s climb that mountain’ says Dean Smith ahead of Norwich’s Old Trafford test

A first Premier League victory in 10 attempts was not enough to lift the Canaries off the bottom of the table.

By Press Association Published: 15 April 2022 - 10.46am

Norwich head coach Dean Smith has challenged his players to prove everyone wrong and keep their slim survival hopes alive when they head to Manchester United.

The Canaries beat relegation rivals Burnley 2-0 at Carrow Road last weekend, but a first Premier League victory in 10 attempts was not enough to lift them off the bottom of the table.

Despite the uplift in mood within the camp, Norwich continue to face a tall order if they are to extend their stay in the top flight beyond one season.

Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford, the Norfolk club sit seven points adrift of safety while also having played a game more than both Burnley, who have sacked long-serving manager Sean Dyche, and Everton.

Smith, though, is determined to remained focussed on the job in hand – even if the odds appear stacked against them.

“I am a realist and I know how difficult it is going to be, there are no ‘gimmes’ in the Premier League,” the Norwich boss said.

“We are travelling to Old Trafford next, the Theatre of Dreams – and what a tough place to go.

“But we have got that renewed confidence from what four points in the last two games brings you.”

Smith told a press conference: “We are looking forward to the game. Let’s try to climb that mountain and do what people have already said is not doable.

“We just want to keep working hard, trying to perform well and trying to get better, develop and learn from our mistakes and reflect from each game.

“If you can do that, there is going to be progression and development, which is all you can want from your team.”

While Norwich battle for points at the bottom, United’s push for a return to the top four has stalled in recent weeks, culminating in a 1-0 defeat at strugglers Everton.

United fans are planning to protest against the club’s Glazer ownership before kick-off on Saturday.

While it remains to be seen if there will be any direct impact on the United players, Smith will take any extra edge Norwich may be able to gain.

“They lost their last game against Everton and I have been told there might be some kind of protest at the ground as well,” said Smith, who when Aston Villa boss masterminded a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in September.

“Sometimes in this league you need need to be playing teams at the right time and hopefully for us this is the right time.”

Smith added: “We have analysed Manchester United’s last three or four games as we always do, but they are very good footballers and if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there.

“The history of Manchester United, there is an expectancy to go and win things and that will always be there after what Sir Alex Ferguson did over a 20-year period. It has been very difficult to follow in those footsteps.

“Their fans are expecting them to get back to those levels as soon as they can and they will try to keep pushing for that.”

Norwich will be without on-loan United defender Brandon Williams, who is ineligible to play against his parent club, with Greece international Dimitrios Giannoulis set to fill in again at left-back.

Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour has recovered from Covid-19 after missing the win over Burnley, so should be in contention to return to the side as the Canaries look to extend their unbeaten run to three games.

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