PREVIEW: United v Swansea

The Louis Van Gaal Era officially begins at Old Trafford on Saturday when the Dutch maestro’s rejenuvated Red devils open their new campaign on the back of their worst ever season in Premier League history. Having mustered more than 15 goals in pre-season and coming up against Garry Monk’s attack minded Swansea side, the game is expected to be an absolute goal fest. The clash will also see the official debut of marquee signing Ander Herrera while an unfortunate knee injury will force fellow new signing Luke Shaw to watch the game from the stands.

Team News:
Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck are expected to miss the game with minor injuries while Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick are long term absentees. Swansea don’t have any major injury concerns but will face morale problem having lost Chicho Flores and Pablo Hernandez to big money Qatari clubs days before the opener. On a positive note, new signings Gylfi Siggurdson, Jefferson Montero and Bafetimbi Gomis are fit and should be involved.

Predicted XI:

Manchester United(3-4-1-2):
De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Blackett; Rafael Fletcher Herrera Young; Mata; Januzaj/Hernandez Rooney(C)

Manager: Louis Van Gaal

Swansea(4-4-2):
Tremmel; Rangel Amat Williams(C) Taylor; Dyer/Montero Ki Shelvey Siggurdson/Routledge; Bony Gomis

Manager: Garry Monk

Tactical Analysis:

Manchester United
Louis Van Gaal will implement his 3-4-1-2 formation for the first time in the Premier League, having already masterminded big wins in the World Cup and the pre-season earlier in the summer. Injuries to Jonny Evans and Luke Shaw will force Van Gaal to dig deep into the United squad, which could see him hand the highly impressive Tyler Blackett his official debut. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will be expected to keep the Bony-Gomis pairing quiet, while Blackett’s composure and authority going forward will give the defense an added dimension, though the youngster will face a stern test coming up against Nathan Dyer’s electrifying pace. Ashley Young is likely to start in the left wingback role and will be looking to replicate his exceptional pre-season form into this fixture while Rafael will take up the right sided role.

Vice Captain Darren Fletcher is expected to start alongside Ander Herrera in midfield and their partnership will be something to keep an eye on. With Fletcher sitting deep and doing the defensive work, Herrera will be expected to pull the strings in midfield and dictate the tempo of the game. Van Gaal might entertain the idea of giving Fellaini a few minutes, following the Belgian’s impressive cameo vs Valencia.

With Welbeck still not 100% and Hernandez coming off an inconsistent pre-season with his future up in the air, Van Gaal could hand newly crowned #11 Adnan Januzaj a forward berth alongside captain Wayne Rooney, with Juan Mata taking his place behind the two forwards. Swansea’s attack minded pivot of Shelvey and Ki will need to shore up on the defensive front if they are to stop the star studded United attack, meaning Jose Canas could be an option for Garry Monk. The match could also see Robin Van Persie make his first appearance of the season, having missed the pre-season recovering from the after effects of the World Cup.

Head to Head:

Manchester United completed a league double over Swansea last season, beating them 4-1 in the season opener at the Liberty stadium and following it up with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford. Swansea did have their big moment though with their 2-1 win at Old Trafford knocking United out of the FA Cup.

Key Battle:

Wayne Rooney vs Ashley Williams

With form, fitness and the manager all on his side, Wayne Rooney was recently announced as the captain of Manchester United. Following an excellent pre-season tour, Rooney put in a lackluster performance vs Valencia, and will look to make up for it by giving the Old Trafford faithful something to cheer about. Swansea captain Ashley Williams will be entrusted with the responsibility of marshaling his inexperienced defense against a world class attack, and will have to be at the top of his game if he has to stop Rooney and co.

Prediction:

Manchester United’s exceptional quality going forward should be the difference as the lack of natural ballwinners in midfield will jeopardize the Welsh side’s prospects of getting anything out of this game. Expect Louis Van Gaal’s men to kick off the 2014-15 Premier League campaign with a resounding victory and show their rivals that this time around, they really mean business.

Manchester United 3-0 Swansea

Written by Sagar Shetty. Follow him on Twitter.

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