The future had been looking bleak for Norwich City in the post-Paul Lambert era. The Scot had led the club from the lower reaches of League One to a comfortable campaign in the Premier League in less than three years, but their first competitive game in after his departure was a 5-0 defeat to Fulham.
Eight games into the Premier League season, after heavy losses to Liverpool and Chelsea, Chris Hughton secured his first victory as Norwich boss against the mighty Arsenal. They have not been beaten since, having adopted a more defensive tack, but he is under no illusions about the scale of the task at hand.
"I look at the job I've taken on at Norwich and it's a real tough one," he told ESPN in an exclusive interview this week. "Paul Lambert knew the time was right for him to leave when he did last summer. I'm sure Paul appreciated that this season would be very tough at Norwich because the surprise element that served him well in their first season back in the Premier League is gone and it is a case of working hard to get points now."
They will have to work particularly hard if they are to add to their points tally this weekend. Manchester United's defensive concerns may persist, but they now lead the table and have a collection of strikers that could threaten any opposition. Even the potential absence of Wayne Rooney - who missed England's trip to Sweden in midweek - offers little consolation. Javier Hernandez, last week's super-sub against Aston Villa, is set to start alongside Robin van Persie, with Danny Welbeck lying in wait from the bench.
"The quality in the United squad speaks for itself," Hughton said. "It will be tough for us, but that is the case every week in this league."
Jonny Evans is a doubt for the match, and though Phil Jones is close to a comeback the trip to Carrow Road will come too soon. Norwich will be without defender Russell Martin for the game with a back problem, while on-loan Tottenham striker Harry Kane remains on the sidelines.
Norwich City player to watch: Wes Hoolahan. This Dubliner made his return to the international stage for Republic of Ireland against Greece on Wednesday night and his recall was entirely justified after a series of impressive displays in Norwich colours this season. Inventive, oozing with energy and with his confidence as high as it has been for many a year, this combative little maestro has the class to unsettle United's defensive line.
Manchester United player to watch: Robin van Persie. It is not always easy to live up to the kind of hype that surrounded Van Persie following his £24 million switch from Arsenal to Manchester United last summer, but this classy Dutchman has done that and more in his first three months at Old Trafford. The goals have been flowing for Van Persie on a weekly basis and, if he is at his best against Norwich on Saturday, they are liable to be blown away from this in-form striker.
Key battle: Grant Holt v Rio Ferdinand. Norwich's chief scorer and talisman may look as if he is carrying a little timber around his waistline this season, but that is serving to make the task of marking him even more physically demanding for his rivals. Holt can bully the best of central defenders on his day and, if Ferdinand is not on top of his game at Carrow Road on Saturday evening, he could become another victim of the striker who has scored against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal so far this season.
Trivia: Manchester United have won 12 and lost just one of the last 14 league meetings with Norwich and, in Ryan Giggs, United have a match-winner who has a proven match record against the Canaries. Ryan Giggs scored at Carrow Road in the first season in the Premier League (1992-93) and the 20th season (2011-12). In total, he has netted in three of the five Premier League meetings between Norwich and United at Carrow Road.
Stats: Manchester United have scored 12 goals from crosses in the Premier League this season, more than any other side, while Javier Hernandez has scored in five successive appearances for Manchester United, netting seven goals in total during this run.
Odds: Norwich are at 7.00 to win at bet365, while United are red-hot favourites at 1.44. You can get some money on a draw at 4.00. If you fancy United to match Liverpool's 5-2 win at Carrow Road from earlier this season, take a bet at 51.00.
Prediction: If Norwich score first, they will have a chance to exploit the more resolute defensive structure Hughton has put in place over recent weeks, but an early United goal will help them to run away with the points.