The new season is finally upon us! This weekend Manchester United kick off their season against Swansea City. Manchester United fans will be confident of beating a side that barely avoided relegation last season, but will be wary of last season’s results against them, such as losing in the FA Cup. With kick off just two days away, here are five things that are going to be important against Swansea.
1. Restoring the aura of Old Trafford When Manchester United begin their first season under Louis van Gaal they will be aware that their last manager tarnished Old Trafford’s invincibility aura. An important part of this game is establishing that United are back, and that Old Trafford is healthy again, so a win is a must for van Gaal. Last season David Moyes began his tenure by beating Swansea, but he quickly suffered a poor run of form where the side conceded key late goals. Swansea were the benefactors in the FA Cup, so it is important that United to start off as well as possible with a big win.
2. Introducing captain Wayne Rooney Rooney will be re-energized after the midweek announcement that he will be Manchester United’s next captain. It was the right decision from van Gaal because now it will be the extra incentive for Rooney to bring out his best form. Against Valencia, the first time he had been named captain under van Gaal, he played poorly, so hopefully the formal announcement will lead to a couple goals against Swansea.
3. Injuries taking their toll When van Gaal names his first squad in the Premier League he will be unable to select a full strength squad. In fact, he already has a growing injury list, with stars such as Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick missing. Carrick is suitably covered by Darren Fletcher, but the likelihood is that van Gaal will have to rely on someone untested in the Premier League at left wingback. He also has to worry about injuries throughout the center of his defense. Luckily the young members of the squad have looked good during preseason, but it has yet to be seen whether or not they will make the adaptation to the Premier League.
4. Maruoane Fellaini Often blamed as the symbol of Moyes’ terrible tenure, it remains to be seen what will happen to Maruoane Fellaini. He scored the winning goal against Valencia, and he performed well at the World Cup. Whether or not he actually survives past August is debatable because it is hard to see where he will fit into van Gaal’s squad. Against Valencia he ended up pushing higher up the field, but there is no way he will play over Mata, and he looked useless last season as a central midfielder. Van Gaal does tend to like having physical players in his side, so Fellaini may find himself coming off the bench on Saturday. If he does, it is important he provides a brilliant performance.
5. Success of the 5-3-2 Saturday is the first real test of van Gaal’s formation change. He won all of his games during preseason using it, but it remains to be seen how successful it will be in the Premier League. Swansea are likely to use a conventional 4-4-2, so it will be an interesting battle of tactics. Another interesting consideration is that a lot of Swansea’s play is going to focus on targeting Wilfried Bony, who was very successful against United last season, so he will provide a big test for United’s back-line.
Overall I would expect Manchester United are going to win this game. They are high on confidence after a great preseason so van Gaal will expect them to win as well. I believe that Rooney will be the star man in this game, unlike last year’s opening fixture against Swansea. I believe the final score will be 3-0.