Premier League – Manchester United v Swans at 15:00 on Saturday, 2nd January 2016
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: J Collin, A Halliday
Fourth Official: M Oliver
Thanks to some improvement in recent results, the Swans start 2016 in much better shape than they looked like doing during early December and the trip to Old Trafford is nowhere near as daunting as it once was, with the Red Devils themselves without a victory in eight games across in all competitions.
Despite United’s poor form of late and talk and Van Gaal departing, today’s game will offer Curtis and his men a useful yardstick on how much they have improved over recent weeks as the Red Devils are sure to be motivated to get Louis van Gaal his first win against his “ghost team” – having lost the last three times the sides have met.
It is an intriguing encounter and much will rely on the battle between the much improved Swans defence, whom have kept a clean sheet in the last three Premier League games and a goal-shy United strikeforce whom have only scored 10 league goals at home this season – just one more than the Swans.
Thankfully Federico Fernandez has a good chance of returning to the starting line-up for the Swans despite missing training with a bruised heel and Wayne Routledge could also start having recovered from a minor niggle after being on the receiving end of some West Brom “tackles”.
With Curtis having made eight changes against Crystal Palace earlier in the week, expect more wholesale changes as the Swans team takes on a more familiar look.
As for 13-time Premier League Champions United, Jesse Lingard is a doubt with a hamstring injury and defender Marcos Rojo remains on the sidelines following surgery on his shoulder. Other than the other long term absentees such as Valencia and Shaw, the Red Devils can call upon some more than capable replacements in their £391 million squad.
Who’d have thought that in recent history, the Swans would boast a tally of 4 wins out of 5 in all competitions against United and all by the same 2-1 scoreline.
The one problem the Swans do have however is scoring goals and whilst we are highly unlikely to see such a defensive display as the one against Palace last time out, it is hard to imagine the Swans scoring freely at Old Trafford. With United also seemingly in a goal-shy mood at the moment, a share of the points is a strong possibility and a point at Old Trafford would be a great way to start 2016 for the Swans.
Manchester United 1 Swans 1
What the Pundits Think
Paul Merson (Sky Sports) – Manchester United 2 Swans 0
I thought Manchester United did alright against Chelsea – much better. They were playing against a team who did not have a centre-forward, but I thought they played with a better tempo, it was more like the United we know. I look at it now and I expect them to win this game 2-0. I could see a little turn in performance from the weeks before the Chelsea game, and I think Morgan Schneiderlin in the team is a no-brainer. For Swansea, I wonder when the managerial situation will be resolved. Surely they had a manager lined up after they sacked Garry Monk? It can’t help the situation. They have to be careful, because if they lose this game, they’re still near the mud.”
Mark Lawrenson (BBC) – Manchester United 3 Swans 0
It may have been an eighth successive game without a win for Manchester United, but their performance at least was much better in the 0-0 draw against Chelsea. That is a big part of what the Manchester United fans want. Sure, they want a crack at winning the Premier League and challenging in the Champions League, but just as much they need to see that attitude, style and determination to take the game to the opposition. The pressure on manager Louis van Gaal is not about an expectation of winning 4-0 each week, it is about how the the team are playing. With that performance against Chelsea under their belts, even after Swansea’s recent improvement under caretaker Alan Curtis, I think they will make a return to winning ways.”
Steve Bower (MOTD Commentator)
So a team definitely looking for a new manager faces one that could be, should Swansea beat Manchester United for the fourth consecutive league game. Louis van Gaal has remained defiant and will hope the intensity of his team’s performance against Chelsea is repeated. They do though have to change their dreadful recent scoring record against a side who have kept three clean sheets in a row. Alan Curtis has steadied the Swansea ship at an important time, and I saw his first match in charge, which should have resulted in at least a point at Manchester City. Van Gaal has called Swansea his ‘ghost team’; he needs a new positive spell to begin the new year.”
Last meeting at Old Trafford
16 August 2014: Manchester United 1 Swans 2
Current League Form (Last 6)
Manchester United: DLLLDD
Predicted Swans Starting XI:
Fabianski, Rangel, Fernandez, Williams (Capt), Taylor, Britton, Ki, Ayew, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Gomis.
At the Bookies
Those of you who fancy a flutter might want to check out the odds being offered on the game at the moment.
With the Swans in fine defensive form at the moment, you can get 7/1 on the game ending in a goalless draw or 6/1 on a 1-1 draw.
How about backing the Swans leading scoring Andre Ayew to score first at 11/1.
Let us know your thoughts – whether on the game or the betting odds(!) using the comment box below 🙂