Manchester United have been much improved of late, and Mike Norman believes David Moyes' men will continue in similar fashion when they visit the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday afternoon...
"Cardiff will struggle to keep United at bay for 45 minutes is my thinking, especially given the fact that in all of the last six games that Moyes’ men found the net they did so in the first half."
Cardiff v Manchester United
Live on Sky Sports 1
It's been a mixed bag of results for the Bluebirds since their promotion from the Championship last season but I'm confident that boss Malky Mackay will be happy with his team's return of 12 points so far; a haul that has Cardiff 14th in the table.
Home wins over Manchester City and Swansea have been the highlights of Cardiff's season to this point which shows that they can raise their game when a big club/rival visit the Cardiff City Stadium.
Midfielder Aron Gunnarsson is fit to play despite picking up a minor leg injury while playing for Iceland on Tuesday night, and striker Peter Odemwingie has recovered from a muscle injury and should start in attack.
It's been an excellent two months for United since their surprising home loss to West Brom in September. David Moyes' men are unbeaten in all competitions (nine games) and last time out they secured a morale-boosting win over Premier League leaders Arsenal, a win that took them one point ahead of title favourites Manchester City.
The Red Devils still don't appear to have hit top gear yet however, while Robin van Persie is only just starting to hit his goalscoring form from last term. It could be rather ominous for the rest of the division should both RVP and United find their full stride over the coming months.
Moyes is definitely without Michael Carrick (Achilles) and Phil Jones (groin) for the trip to Wales, while Van Persie is a slight doubt after withdrawing from international duty, though he is likely to be fit.
This is a game in which I fully expect United to continue their recent upsurge in form. At 1.684/6 to back they are far from being an outstanding price, but those odds make more appeal than either the home win at 6.05/1 or the draw at 4.1.
The Bluebirds have already had two memorable home wins this season, but now that we know Man City aren't great on their travels, and that literally anything can happen in a fierce derby, then perhaps those two results don't read as well from a form perspective as first appeared. Home losses to Tottenham and Newcastle are probably a more accurate reflection of Cardiff's ability.
There's a sense that United have got the bit between their teeth at the moment, and with the top clubs in the table now looking over their shoulders Moyes' men will want to maintain their current form as a crucial stage of the season approaches.
Although I fully expect United to win the game I also appreciate that Mackay has a very well organised team at his disposal. They are a hard working outfit who prepare well for whoever they play, and I expect United could take their time to break them down.
It's a tough market this because there's a feeling that if/when United do make the breakthrough, one or two goals may follow - but that obviously depends on the time the breakthrough is made.
Can I see Cardiff scoring themselves? The gut feeling is no which means United would have to score three on their own to land the 1.855/6 odds about Over 2.5 Goals. I could be completely wrong of course, but in keeping with how the majority of Premier League games have gone this term, the tentative selection is Under 2.5 Goals at 2.1411/10.
Slightly contradictory to the above, I believe Man United/Man United could be the bet in this market at 2.68/5; though let's hope they don't net too early and go on to score plenty.
My principle reason for the selection is that the Bluebirds have scored just two league goals this season in the first 45 minutes. As mentioned earlier, they're a well organised side who set out to stop the opposition first and foremost before giving it a bit of a go themselves in the second half.
Cardiff will struggle to keep United at bay for 45 minutes is my thinking, especially given the fact that in all of the last six games that Moyes' men found the net they did so in the first half.