PREVIEW: Swans v Man Utd

Image-3Swansea City go on the hunt of three wins in a row against Manchester United this afternoon and as remarkable a statistic as that is, there’s no doubt that it is an achievement within this squad’s grasp.

Gaffer Garry is right to dismiss talk of his side being “favourites” and by stressing pre-game that we are underdogs he’s seeking to create that extra special atmosphere at the Liberty…you know the one…where we look to take the game to one of the so called B-I-G clubs and proceed to give them a bloody nose, much to the frenzied fans’ delight.

Of course, it looks as if Louis van Gaal has already been given a bloody nose with a blow hard enough to flatten it completely, so one more at the hands of the Swans side that beat him twice last season won’t make much difference to his looks…but it could seriously hurt his title aspirations.

The Manchester United hierarchy and fans were rightly worried that they’d never find someone that could live up to the exploits of Sir Alex Ferguson, but in van Gaal they’ve found a man worthy of the mantle. Oh yes indeed, the beetroot red face, the snarling attitude, the bitter boy antics in defeat, van Gaal is a worthy heir to Ferguson’s sore loser legacy.

Having suffered home and away defeats to the Swans last season and then spent £80million to reinforce his squad this summer, it’ll be interesting to listen to van Gaal’s excuses should he come a cropper to the men in copper (and white) once again this afternoon. 

One thing that van Gaal does have in his favour today is the pundits’ predictions…the fact that Paul Merson and Mark Lawrenson have tipped the Swans to win a game is akin to the tectonic plates of the universe shifting beneath our cosmic feet. It damn well scares me, I’ll tell ya that!!

Moving swiftly on from the Coke Head and the Cock Head both breaking the Laws of Physics to tip us, here’s a closer look at this afternoon’s Super Sunday festivities at the Liberty…

 

THE SWANS

 

A routine 3-0 Capital One Cup win over York in midweek told us very little of interest or relevance for this game, other than two irrefutable facts: Ki is fit and ready to go and Leon Britton is still that calming, metronomic presence just in front of the back four. 

Ki’s return to fitness provides a real dilemma for Monk as the team has done pretty well without last season’s Player of the Year but you know that the South Korean can bring something to the party, just as he did against United last season. But who do you leave out to make room for Ki? 

Jack Cork came into the side when Ki got injured early on in the first game and he’s been excellent alongside the star of the season so far (for me), Jonjo Shelvey. Gylfi Sigurdsson would appear most vulnerable of the central trio but again, he’s starting to grind himself back to form and he’s been the player covering the most hard yards for the cause.

One answer would be to switch to that Plan B diamond formation…but…Gaffer Garry might be a victim of his own success here! The manager set out with his two wingers and both Baby Jeff Montero and Andre Ayew have been superb and it would be extremely difficult to drop that successful system or either of those exciting players in favour of a formation that concedes some of our attacking threat.

It’s all far simpler at the back where it will be same again for Fab, Fede, Ash, Naughty and Tayls – despite Tabanou’s decent outing against York sending out a message of intent to Taylor.

And up front it will be the Panther Bafe Gomis looking to do his Cecil the Lion tribute for the fourth game in a row.

At the end of the day one of our strengths this season has been the consistency in our squad first of all, and then in our team selection and tactics. And I see no reason why we should change things round today and so I expect an unchanged side with the usual two winger formation…let Manchester United worry about our strengths rather than the other way around.

THE OPPOSITION

 

Back in the Champions League, another multi-million pound spending spree, unbeaten this season…all is well for the Red Devils, isn’t it? Isn’t it?? Well not exactly…

…Louis van Flat Face’s side have flattered to deceive so far, limping over the line against Tottenham and Villa before failing to break down Newcastle at Old Trafford last time out. Pedro was pinched by Chelski and de Gea has been banished to the fringes as his protracted move to Real Madrid drags on.

Having said all of that, this is a squad heaving with world class players and they are still a powerhouse of the English game – something that has to be remembered by any Swans fan EXPECTING a Swans win today!

It’s an incredible pool of talent that van Gaal – and Rooney, if today’s Sun newspaper is to be believed – has to pick from. Minus David de Gea of course, the keeper that earned at least 10 points for United last season now languishing in the stands as his club plays Chicken with the transfer juggernaut that is Real Madrid. Replacement keeper Romero is decent, but this could be an area of weakness that the Swans can exploit.

Offsetting the self-imposed loss of de Gea is the fact that the United defence has tightened up considerably since last season; Luke Shaw is finally showing some of his Southampton form whilst Darmian looks a good signing at right back. The presence of holding midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has played a big part in the improvement too.

Where United have fallen short is up front; Rooney is mis-firing whilst new messiah Memphis is finding the harsh truth that walking it in the Dutch league doesn’t automatically translate to being a success in the Premier League.

Still, United finally have Fellaini available again after suspension…so Ash and Fede can expect plenty of long balls and flying elbows this afternoon!

 

THE KEY

 

Rooney’s hat-trick against Club Brugge the other night would suggest he’s finding a bit of form and confidence again and he’ll be the man to guard against, but I feel that the key will be in shutting off some supply whilst also imposing our own game on the opposition. That means that Darmian and Shaw have their hands too full with Montero and Ayew to even think about going too far forward. Another key battle to look out for will be if Cork and Fellaini get selected – their midfield duel could be critical and Cork tracking his man to prevent Fellaini powering late into the box will help nullify an important – if ugly – United weapon.

 

THE DANGER MAN

 

As mentioned above, Rooney grabbed himself a hat-trick against Club Brugge and the England captain will fancy adding to that tally this afternoon. It’s easy to make fun of Rooney – especially for us Welsh folk – but the fact remains that he’s a talented footballer that has achieved an awful lot in the game and he has the ability to ram those taunts down our throats this afternoon…if we let him.

 

MY TEAM

Fabianski; Naughton; Fernandez; Williams; Taylor; Cork; Shelvey; Sigurdsson; Montero; Ayew; Gomis

 

PREDICTION

 

I’ve got to go for it! I’ve got to predict a HOME WIN! In order to do it we simply have to take the chances that come our way – our big minus point so far this season – but I feel we have the ammunition to take down a United side that still looks less than its component parts. If we are to do it, I feel we have to score first – if United get in front then I think they’ll happily shut up shop, something van Gaal has no hang-ups about doing despite the clamour for United to play teams off the park at all times. My fifty pence is going on a 1-0 Swans victory courtesy of Andre Ayew!

 

Can Andre add to his tally with a strike to down United? Would Ki be able to open doors that others can’t? Sound off in the comments section below…