So, the new season is here again! I love my cricket but there is no greater feeling than seeing my football club walk out on the first game of the season! As with last season, we start another Premier League campaign against Manchester United and yet again were up against a new United manager after David Moyes got the boot.
The media love affair with Louis Van Gaal has started already and there is no doubt that United’s new manager deserves a huge amount of respect for his track record. I have no doubt that he will prove to be a success at Old Trafford but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is going to start his United career with a defeat. Madness I hear many say, you don’t have a clue what you’re on about. Maybe and maybe my prediction of a Swans win has more heart than head thinking to it but there are reasons why I think we will leave Old Trafford with 3 points.
Van Gaal has had a huge amount of attention as the new boss of United and he has started to implement a change of style within the club from a 4-4-/4-3-3 that United have previously played with to a new 3-5-2 formation. Implementing any new formation takes time and although United have performed really well in pre-season, there is a big difference between friendlies and the real thing. Added to this change in formation is a number of injuries to key United players and although their team is still strong, it doesn’t have the same look to it as United teams of the past have.
The Red Mancunian fan site thinks that United will start with a back 3 of Jones, Smalling and young Tyler Blackett. Whilst these 3 are all good players I have a feeling the thought of handling Wilfried Bony, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer/Jefferson Montero will cause them a good deal of worry. United have lost the experience of Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra and so Swansea’s front 3 along with Gylfi Sigurdsson will cause this young defence some problems I believe.
United of course have huge amounts of forward power and there is no doubt that a front 3 of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez will keep Ashley Williams and his defensive colleagues occupied.
The Swans have been written off by so many pundits already this season and experts such as Paul Scholes have earmarked us to be relegated as they believe we are a club in crisis. They believe the departures of Michel Vorm, Ben Davies, Chico, Pablo Hernandez and Michu are a sign that we are falling backwards as a club and our board’s appointment of Garry Monk is seen as a big risk and one which could backfire on Huw Jenkins. To the uneducated outsider, the departures above look damaging. To most Swans fans, the only departure that really was disappointing was the loss of Ben Davies who has proved himself to be a top quality premier league full back. Vorm had a very mixed season last year and cost us a number of points with mistakes and whilst Chico was loved by fans, it was more down to his cult status as a player than his exceptional performances on the pitch.
Pablo was always a marmite player with Swans fans and for every mouth watering pass there was plenty of times when he frustrated us by losing possession. As for Michu then a Michu of the first season would be a big loss. An injury prone Michu never reached the heights of his first season and whilst he could be a raving success at Napoli, my gut feel is that he will struggle with injuries.
Monk has brought in some excellent replacements and whilst we look a little light in defence, the acquisitions of Bafetimbi Gomis, Jefferson Montero and Gylfi Sigurdsson give us a lot of forward power and these 3 coupled with Bony, Dyer, Routledge and Jonjo Shelvey will mean we will get the goals we need to stay out of the relegation zone this season. Ki Seung Yeungs return to the club gives strength to the midfield although the Swans will miss the defensive presence of Leon Britton who is out with a knee injury. The partnership of Ki along with Jonjo Shelvey versus Darren Fletcher and Ander Herrera could be the key battle in the game and this is one area where I have some concerns due to both Swans players being more forward thinking than defensively minded.
Both sides have good keepers with David de Gea proving himself one of the Premier Leagues finest goalkeepers and the Swans acquisition of Lukas Fabianski seems like good business considering the esteem with which Arsenal and Arsene Wenger held him in.
Both teams have experience at full/wing back and the departure of Ben Davies was made easier to accept with Neil Taylor already being at the club and being a first choice Premier League full back before his nasty ankle injury. The Red Mancunian believe that Rafael and Ashley Young will hold the wing back roles for United and whilst both are dangerous going forward, they also don’t win awards for their defensive skills and with the Swans having trickery and pace on the wing, I think this will be another key battle in the game.
I expect both teams to line up therefore as below.
The game is the first Premier League match of the season and all of the TV and early media attention will be on Louis Van Gaal. Everyone expects United to win and being at home and with a multi million pound squad there is no doubt they should brush us aside. The beauty about football however is that it’s a funny old game. What you expect to happen sometimes doesn’t. The dead cert results sometimes break pools and betting coupons and I have a feeling the Swans will break the hearts of punters all over the country who have a United win down as a banker.
Garry Monk and his team have been doubted all summer long and if we were to lose tomorrow, there’s no doubt that many will use this as evidence that they are right and that we are doomed for the 2014/15 season. I don’t agree with them though. I think Garry Monk was the right appointment, I think he has brought some great new players in and with some reinforcements in other key areas, I think we will have another good season in the Premier League and finish between 10th and 12th. Getting to 40 points will always be the first goal for the club and whilst no one makes themselves safe in August, 3 points tomorrow will make everyone sit up and notice and hopefully prove so many of the doubters wrong!
Whatever the result, it’s great to have football back and I’m proud to be a Jack!