If a certain Danish lager company made opening days of the Premier League season, they would certainly be hard pushed to do any better than Swans versus QPR last year! A blistering hot day in London, a fantastic five nil away win and our new signings of Michu, De Guzman and Chico purring like the latter’s shiny red Ferrari! Oh yes and following the departure of Brendan Rogers to Liverpool, our newly appointed Manager was none other than the legendary Michael Laudrup, one of the all-time greats of world football.
On paper, our opening league fixture of the 2013-14 Premier League season is a far tougher proposition and given the choice it’s probably not one that we would have wanted in terms of ensuring we get off to a winning start. I know many Jacks tend to err on the side of caution or even down right pessimism at times, but I actually think that are a number of factors in our favour that should give call for optimism in this encounter against United.
First, it is pleasing to note that our opening day fixture is at home at the Liberty Stadium, which as all Swans fans will know is a rare treat when one looks at the cards we have been dealt by that trusty Football League computer over the last 10 years! In other words, in previous years we have mainly opened the season with an away fixture.
Second, our form going into this first game is excellent and confidence is high. Pre-season was a success and we have already played two competitive fixtures against Malmo in the UEFA Europa League, coming away with fantastic results. The new signings made by the Manager and the Board over the summer, without exception all look like quality acquisitions and the team is not only scoring goals, but also importantly it is not conceding. United’s pre-season form on the other hand has been variable, winning three games, drawing two and losing three games out of eight, if you include the Community Shield win against Wigan Athletic last Sunday. Interestingly, three out of their next four League games are against Chelsea, Liverpool and local rivals Manchester City.
Third, as good as David Moyes might be, following Sir Alex Ferguson is a really tough job. Manchester United is a global brand and expectations of the new Manager will be extremely high. Yes, United have a great squad, but they have not been active in the transfer window to date and have added little to last season’s squad despite being linked with big names like Cesc Fabregas and Luka Modric. There is also the Wayne Rooney saga to consider. Yes, Wayne wants a transfer, with Chelsea his apparent destination but with Moyes appearing eager to retain his services, there appears to be unrest in the camp. Their internet message boards also indicate a hint of dissent amongst the ranks as well, with a number of fans frustrated that they have still not strengthened in centre midfield, leaving Michael Carrick as the only guaranteed starter in that part of the pitch.
Finally, “our boys” won’t need any motivation for this one. The current League champions at home on the opening day of the season and live on Sky, they shouldn’t struggle to get out of bed this Saturday! We also gave a really good account of ourselves last season against United, with a 1-1 draw at home just before Christmas and a narrow 2-1 defeat on the last game of the season at Old Trafford, which could easily have gone the other way given the chances we had.
The Swans are likely to line up as follows.
Vorm in goal, with the trusted defensive quartet of Rangel, Davies, Williams and Chico in front him. It was great to see Chico return after injury against Malmo and we are going to need him and “Mr Consistent”, Ashley Williams on Saturday as last years’ Premier League leading scorer Robin Van Persie will be in town.
In midfield, as we know competition is stiff, however if everyone is fit and well, we are probably looking at Britton, Shelvey and Michu in the middle, with Hernandez (fitness allowing) and perhaps Dyer out wide, given that Routledge started the two games against Malmo. Up front of course will be Bony. I’m looking forward to seeing the return of Hernandez, who unfortunately missed the two Malmo games with injury. He has looked bright in pre-season and when on his game is potentially a massive player for us both domestically and in Europe, where he has a wealth of experience.
As for United, it appears that neither Moyes or the United fan base are not 100% clear on what is their strongest line-up just yet, especially given that they are still clearly looking for at least one central midfield player to join Michael Carrick. They are also carrying a few knocks, notably to Young, Rafael and now Carrick himself, with the mid-week friendly internationals also having potential to lead to further injuries. The United team will therefore be roughly as follows: De Gea in goals, with Jones or Fabio, Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra at the back. Carrick (who should recover from an eye infection), Cleverly and possibly Kagawa in the midfield, with any two out of three from Welbeck, Valencia and Zaha out wide. Van Persie will no doubt start up front. The youngster Zanuzaj has also been getting rave reviews from United supporters during pre-season and came off the bench against Wigan in the Community Shield, however his best days appear still to come.
Finally, you might recall that our last two opening Premier League fixtures have ended four nil and five nil apiece. Anyone fancy six this time around (to the Swans of course)?!