Swansea City travel to Old Trafford on Sunday in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final home match
Manchester United welcome Swansea City to Old Trafford on Sunday in what will be Sir Alex Ferguson last ever homematch. The legendary manager will clock up 1,499 games and will field a strong side, which could well feature Paul Scholes – who also looks set to retire at the end of the campaign. The game will mark the 20th time both sides have met over the years. United have won eight of the previous nineteen matches, whilst Swansea City have won six.
The league cup winners have had a very successful campaign, with impressive debut seasons from legendary Danish playmaker Michael Laudrup, who has guided the Swans to their first major trophy, and Spanish forward Michu who has been a goal scoring revelation.
Here we discuss the match preview and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
View from the opposition
1) Sir Alex Ferguson – what are your thoughts on his 26 and a half year reign at Old Trafford?
I can’t say I’m a fan of Manchester United, nor did I hate them. I respect the accomplishments he made and establishing the club into what it is today. Not even the staunchest hater can deny that (unless they are just that delusional). That said, I will always find it remarkable, albeit it more on the comical side that he was nearly sacked over a racehorse.
2) What do you make of his eventual successor David Moyes?
To use a comparison with the US sport of baseball, there’s a general manager (think managing director) named Billy Beane. He has made it a career of building competitive/winning teams with practically nothing in terms of money to spend to acquire talent. Either they’re homegrown or picked up on the very cheap and become reclamation projects. I think of David Moyes in the same fashion. He’s been able to develop and field competitive sides for Everton and in turn had a very respectable career. A few years ago Beane was offered a chance to do be the general manager to the Boston Red Sox and he turned it down. Until he takes the reigns of a team with a far bigger profile and abundance of money to spend, there will always be that question of can Beane do it with a big club. I look at Moyes in the same fashion, though now he has taken up the chance to manage a big club with big money and the we’ll see if he’ll be able to replicate/continue the success under the bigger and hotter spotlight.
3) Michael Laudrup was a long 100/1 shot on Wednesday morning – were you ever worried he might go? Do you think he’ll be there next season?
Not worried about him being the successor to Fergie. I had some concern a few months back when there was some chatter about him being the successor to Mourinho at Real Madrid. Though I think Laudrup is done in terms of experiencing El Clasico, having already played for both Barcelona and Madrid; and one of the very few to do so without being subjected to venomous scorn like say Luis Figo. He’ll be there for 13/14 for sure and how they do next season in the Prem and Europa will determine how much higher his stock goes, plateaus or regresses.
4) Explain how good a job he has done since Rodgers departed.
It’s unfair for me to make comparisons between him and Rodgers because it was only last season that I only really paid enough attention to Swansea City to be curious enough to follow them. This season is the one where I made it an effort to watch their matches week in and week out. Swansea City under Rodgers was all about making sure they weren’t scared off by the big bright lights of the Premiership. This season under Laudrup was making sure that last season wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. I remember the folks at Four Four Two had them pegged as being one of the relegation candidates and look at what they did. He’s done a fantastic job of letting it be known that Swansea aren’t going away from top flight anytime soon and he’ll make sure the 13/14 squad galvanize that.
5) Who has been your best and worst player this season?
The easy choice would be to say Michu because of how he started the season out like gangbusters, and the “OMG! HE TRANSFERRED FOR HOW MUCH!?!?” However I was far more impressed with the emergence of left-back Ben Davies. You couldn’t ask for a better job out of a teenager than what he’s done and I think his omission from the PFA Young Player of the Year was baffling, considering comparing offensive statistics with say Danny Welbeck, Davies was on par with Welbeck. And just to add one last thing to that, they picked the wrong Manchester United player for that award. It should’ve been De Gea instead of Welbeck.
6) How would you sum up your season and do you have advise for your gaffer?
What more can one ask for when some publications peg the club as a relegation candidate and they go and win a major trophy and are on the verge of finishing in the top ten. That said, ever since they won at Wembley and before the win at Wigan, Swansea had been taking a nap. At times it sure made waking up at the crack of dawn to watch their matches utterly worthless. As for advice for Laudrup, I say make the rumored loan of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea happen. When Swansea took their nap, so did Michu because he was the guy to mark. No disrespect to the other attackers on the squad, but Michu needs help – and really he is more of a CAM than an outright striker/CF. Put a striker like Lukaku up top with Michu just playing off him and then you’ll see something fun.
7) If you could take one United player, who would it be and why?
Shinji Kagawa. Though there’s already Leon Britton and the soon-to-be permanent move of Jonathan De Guzman, I’ve just been a fan of Kagawa’s play since Dortmund and think he would fit very well with Laudrup’s variation to the Swanselona style of play the club is becoming known for. Plus the Evil Kagawa tweets about Wales and potshots at Cardiff City would be entertaining.
8) How will you line up on Sunday?
Squad-wise? Honestly it doesn’t matter. Laudrup will probably field his usual starters minus Michu who has been shut down with a hamstring injury and probably Michel Vorm who got KOed at the Wigan match. Call it the de-facto Fergie Farewell Tour, I just don’t want the United supporters angry and taking it out on the traveling Swansea supporters should the result be anything but a United win.
9) How much is Michu worth now and where is in the Premier League striker pecking order?
Well he’s definitely worth more than the £2 million transfer fee, which I think some folks forget was how much the release clause in his contract with Rayo Vallecano was. Just like with Bayern Munich meeting the release clause Borussia Dortmund set for Mario Götze, this is just how these things happen. As for his value now, according to Transfermrkt, he’s valued at £11.5 million which sounds about right and given the history of Premier League clubs dropping huge sacks of money to get a player within the league, a number around £20 million would not shock me. I want to see if he can match/top his second season in the Premier League before anointing him as one of the top goal scorers in the league. We all know how cruel this game can be and how many flash in the pans it’s seen. Much like Laudrup proving this season wasn’t a fluke or overachieving, Michu has to show he won’t be a victim to a sophomore slump.
10) Tell us a fact about Swansea City.
The actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is from Swansea City and now with Cardiff City winning promotion for next season, the South Wales Derby will now be in the big, bright lights of the Premier League. One of the funniest stories I’ve read about regarding the history between Swansea and Cardiff is a 1988 installment had Swansea supporters chasing Cardiff supporters out of town and literally into the water that is a part of Swansea’s coastal town surroundings. It would be a huge disservice if match commentators do not bring up that story when the derby happens next season.
A £20 bet on United to win 3-0 wins you £165
A £20 bet on Antonio Valencia to open the scoring wins you £190
A £20 bet on United to win both halves wins you £53
United are without fullback Rafael, who is out of the match through suspension. The Brazilian kicked out at fellow countryman David Luiz and was red carded in the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea last weekend. Ashley Young will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury, whilst Darren Fletcher is a long term absentee. Chris Smalling is also injured for the match.
The Swans have a number of injury concerns ahead of their penultimate match of the season. Angel Rangel and Michel Vorm will miss the trip after suffering from a calf injury (Rangel) and concussion (Vorm). Michu has been suffering from a hamstring injury, but could face a late fitness test. Spanish centre half Chico Flores is also in contention to return.
Potential Manchester United line up
David De Gea should return in goal, whilst he defence ought to pick itself with the suspended Rafael missing out. The inclusion of Scholes is purely down to the fact that this could well be his last home game, with it being widely report he too is set to reitre, again, at the end of the season. Ryan Giggs could also play down the left as Sir Alex Ferguson leaves a parting thought on the legacy he built at the club and emphasis on trusting younger players, who in turn grew into unbelievable servants and players for Manchester United.
Will Wayne Rooney start or will he have “picked up an injury”? We’ll have to wait and see on Sunday. Here is our team for the fixture against Swansea City:
How would you line up?
What a difference a year makes. Last season, United’s last home game was against Swansea City. United ran out 2-0 winners, but really needed to rack up more goals in their pursuit of the league titles, which was very much in Manchester City’s hands. We all know how that ended, which in turn – could well have prolonged the manager’s career at United. Fast forward twelve months, including an inspirational signing in Robin van Persie, and you’ll find a very different fixture. The excitement and hope of a title charge is replaced by joy of a title win and sadness that the greatest manager of all time is stepping down, or moving up – which ever you prefer.
Ferguson will no doubt field a strong side, which will likely feature Paul Scholes, who could also be waving goodbye to the Old Trafford faithful. Scholes hasn’t played for United since January 26th in the FA Cup against Fulham and will surely not last the ninety minutes if indeed, he does start. All eyes will be on Wayne Rooney and some may also refer to Ferguson leaving out Ruud van Nistelrooy against Charlton and Berbatov against Barcelona (although he stayed on for another season, his appearances were limited) as a sign that United’s fourth all time top goal scorer could be on his way.
Swansea City won their first match in the week since early March, which would point to a league cup hangover. The Swans lost three on the spin against WBA, Tottenham and Arsenal. Their away record isn’t bad, beating Arsenal 2-0 is surely the pick of the bunch. Michu has been a goal scoring revelation, notching up 21 goals in his debut season. De Guzman trails the Spaniard in second with 8 goals. Swansea City fans will surely mark this season as a superb success but thoughts will turn to the summer and the hope that Michael Laudrup will be persuaded to stay at the Liberty Stadium, rather than a return to Spain, which has been widely reported in the press.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Swansea City