Sheffield United star reveals his surprising preparations for Man City FA Cup semi-final

Last night, when Sheffield United checked in to their central London hotel ahead of today’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, Oliver Norwood settled down in front of his laptop and began streaming some sport.
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It wasn’t re-runs of Pep Guardiola’s side passing opponents into submission. Or montages of Erling Haaland’s 54 goals in his last 47 appearances for club and country. Instead, rather than becoming totally obsessed by the challenge United are facing, Norwood watched a little golf. Despite being less than 24 hours away from making an appearance at Wembley, where he will lock horns with some of the most expensive footballers in the world, the midfielder steadfastly refused to change his pre-match routine.

“I love my golf so that’s what I like to put on,” he told The Star, before setting off for the capital with the rest of United’s squad. It relaxes me and that’s what you want. We all have our way of doing things. So for me, that’s what I’m going to be doing. Golf and a few crime dramas. I’m loving that new one on the Essex Boys.”

Oliver Norwood is relaxing before today's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City: Naomi Baker/Getty ImagesOliver Norwood is relaxing before today's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City: Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Oliver Norwood is relaxing before today's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City: Naomi Baker/Getty Images
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A vastly experienced operator and veteran of Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad, there is method behind Norwood’s thinking. United, also second in the Championship table and one win away from promotion, have reaped the benefits of their level-headed approach towards league competition. So Norwood insisted it would be a mistake to make a change now, despite acknowledging the scale of the task facing them at the national stadium.

“I actually watch a lot more of the Championship than City,” he said. “We have been embraced in that and sometimes, you just need to switch off a bit. Plus, if you watch them (City) too much then I reckon there’s a danger of over-thinking things.”

Norwood has reached the last four of the competition before, when his former club Reading were narrowly beaten by Arsenal.

Manchester City stand between Sheffield United and the FA Cup final: Michael Regan/Getty ImagesManchester City stand between Sheffield United and the FA Cup final: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Manchester City stand between Sheffield United and the FA Cup final: Michael Regan/Getty Images

“We were in the Championship as well then, and I thought we played really well,” he continued, before referencing some of the lessons he learnt from both that fixture and his adventure with Michael O’Neill’s men two months later. “It was heartbreaking to get back to 1-1 and then see the ‘keeper let one go through him. He’s done really well. Games like these swing on small things sometimes.”

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“The key is to just enjoy it and switch off when you can,” he continued. “Don’t think too much about things. With Northern Ireland, we hadn’t been to a tournament like that for ages and in the first game, against Poland, it definitely over-awed us. By the second we were ready. That’s why I like to soak everything up, enjoy it, but also spend time with the kids and watch some golf. Maybe a bit of Netflix.”

With Tommy Doyle and James McAtee both ineligible for selection against their parent club, Norwood appears certain to start the clash with City.

A former Manchester United trainee, he said: “I always followed them and Burnley, my hometown, when I was younger, I’ve spent most of my life there, 15 years. Seriously, that won’t come into it. I’m United now. But being at Manchester united all those years, that put the winner's-mentality into me. It made me who I am I suppose.”