By Rob Stewart
Former Manchester City striker Darren Huckerby believes Manchester United cannot afford to take any risks in the Premier League title race when they face another of his former clubs in the shape of Norwich City on Sunday.
Huckerby has insisted that United manager Sir Alex Ferguson must select a team that is as close as physically possible to a full-strength side when the Premier League champions visit Carrow Road to stop their pacesetting neighbours from strengthening their grip on pole position.
Defeat at Norwich in April 2005, when Dean Ashton and Leon McKenzie helped the Canaries to a 2-0 win over United, effectively sounded the death knell for the Old Trafford club's title hopes and Huckerby believes that a repeat performance is possible.
“Norwich have got a chance of beating Manchester United, no doubt about it, but it all depends what team Man U play,” Norfolk-based Huckerby told Goal.com.
“Gone are the days when Sir Alex Ferguson can put out a weakened team because they have to win every game now just to keep up with Manchester City who don’t look as though they will drop too many points over the course of the season.
“I don’t think they [United] are as strong as they used to be. Just a few years ago when they had Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and that calibre of player they could rest players, but that doesn’t look like a viable option, especially with City looking as though they can win most games.”United beat newly-promoted Norwich 2-0 at Old Trafford earlier this season, but the 35-year-old Huckerby believes that a reversal of fortune is a possibility thanks to the astute management of Canaries boss Paul Lambert.
“It will be tough for Norwich even if Wayne Rooney, who is their key player, is not playing,” Huckerby said.
“When he plays well they look a much better proposition. I would expect him to play if at all possible and then we just have to hope that we play well and Man U have an off-day.
“It will be a big ask for Norwich to beat them but the way Norwich are playing we have got every chance and it would be really special if Norwich can beat them.
“They have done so well because the manager almost always seems to get the best out of all the players. For me, in Paul Lambert Norwich have got the best up-and-coming manager in the Premier League. In my eyes he will manage a top-four club because of the way he goes about his business."
Huckerby, who scored 22 goals in 69 games for Manchester City, is hoping that his old club can go on to clinch their first ever Premier League title this season.
“I think the title race will go right to the wire but being an ex-Blue I would like to see Man City win it,” he said.
“I know I am biased but City fans have been through a lot over the years and it would be nice for them to have something to shout about at the end of the Premier League season and I think they deserve it with what they have had to put up with over the years.”