Ashley Young in action against Swansea City for Manchester United last season
Manchester United travel to Swansea City for the evening kickoff on Saturday evening for first game of the Premier League season for both club. The league Champions take on the League Cup winners, having battled out a 1-1 draw last December at the Liberty stadium. David Moyes will be hoping to get his Manchester United career off to flying start having already won the Community Shield last Sunday.
United have played Swansea City twice away in the past two seasons, although previously to that – the two sides hadn’t meet since the 1982/83 season, with a team consisting of Bryan Robson, Steve Coppell and Gordon McQueen. Here we preview the opening match of the season and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
Today we’re joined by Jacob Cristobal who blogs for Cheeky Backheel. You can follow Jacob on Twitter @jacobcristobal. We discuss David Moyes, the unknown quantity that is Bony and whether or not Swansea can go all the way in Europe this season.
A view from the opposition
1) Alan Curtis says it is the right time for Swansea City to player Manchester United, do you agree?
Yes I do agree. The advantage of having two competitive matches under their belt is as good of a preparation one can get when starting the season against the reigning champions. Even if they weren’t facing the reigning champions, what club wouldn’t take an advantage of having already played something of value far greater than a pre-season friendly? Plus, Alan Curtis is the man and I hear it’s a violation of local law in Swansea to go against him.
2) What have you made of your pre season? Any noticeable performances?
I’m still of the American sports mindset that pre-season is exactly that. Doesn’t mean a whole lot other than seeing who is valued over the other in terms of depth chart purposes. All I wanted from them is to make it out of the summer injury-free and that looks to be the case. I will say that from the small sample size, the partnership of Bony & Michu looks to be clicking and here’s hoping it stays that way over the course of the season.
3) What can you tell us about Wilfriend Bony and will he be a success in the Premier League?
I’m as much in the dark as I would say the general consensus. He was up there in the scoring leaders in Netherlands last season and that’s really all I know. It’s like when Michu arrived last season in that I will just sit back and wait and see what he can do for the club. Like I said in the last answer, the partnership with him and Michu looks to be clicking and that’s nice.
4) Swansea brushed aside the 1979 European Cup runners up Malmo and are one tie away from qualifying. Do you envision a success Europa League season?
You know, I do. Can they pull off a Fulham 2009-10 and make it to the final? I honestly don’t think I can be that confident enough to say so at this point. I do think they have a good chance to make it out of the group stages and anything beyond that is just icing.
5) How do you expect Swansea City to line up on Saturday?
I think it will be the optimized XI to kick off the season. Vorm and the back 4 are solid, no need to worry about them. Britton who I call “The Mayor” will be there and I think Jonjo Shelvey will look to continue his case of proving to Swansea fans that he’s worth it. Dyer & Routledge are solid and last but not least, all eyes will be on Michu & Bony to see if they can cause enough havoc for United’s center backs.
6) What have you made of David Moyes’ appointment at Manchester United?
I think his appointment is one of the reasons why this season will be one of the more fascinating, hopefully more memorable ones in recent memory. I mean no one is going to dispute the appointment since it came with Sir Alex’s seal of approval, unless you’re psychotic. That I do much know about the lore of Manchester United. I think it’s fair to say that up until this point, Moyes has done fairly well with an average squad and average resources and it’s all about seeing what can he do with a squad with resources like Manchester United. I think it will be a fascinating period of transition, though I think it was foolish an attempt was made at Fabregas. He’s not going anywhere.
7) Will Wayne Rooney play and do you think he’ll remain a Manchester United player this season?
Ever since Rooney basically held the club hostage a few years ago to get a new contract, I haven’t thought much of him. I’ve seen plenty of that here with American sports, that I’m just numb to the whole idea of players doing any sort of holdout. I’m honestly surprised Sir Alex let it happen and he didn’t dump him off somewhere in Russia. So if whatever is being said in the papers are true that he wants out, let him. Risky to let him go to another team in England, of course but would you rather have a discontent player and possibly risk it affecting other players? If the hesitation is because of finding an adequate replacement before you move Rooney, well there’s a fire sale going on in Anzhi – go get Eto’o.
8) If you could take one United player, who would it be and why?
In a dream case scenario, Kagawa. FREE KAGAWA! Outside of that, maybe it’s because I’ve always been able to grab him and he’s produced for me in FIFA for cheap, depth purposes, but I’ve kind of taken a liking to Johnny Evans. Depth at defense is never frowned upon and honestly that seems like a realistic move that if it were to happen at any point in time, I wouldn’t be surprised.
9) What are your expectations for the season ahead and are there any youngsters we should watch out for?
What I want to see is move a spot or two in the top 10. Some folks have said that Swansea could be a dark horse to creep into possibly the top 6 and for that to happen, A LOT has to go their way. Good form, more or less major injury-free, not getting poached in January AND for the usual powers to have dips in their form/roster situation. If you asked me what sort of number I’d put on them pulling off that feat and finishing in the top 6 – right now I would say 25%. Check back with me in January. Another top 10 finish in the league, maybe a proper defense and claiming the League Cup again would be nice too. I truly believe though that as far as Laudrup, chairman Huw Jenkins and everyone involved are concerned, they just want to finish in the top 10 and get out of the group stages in Europa. Anything beyond that is just extra bliss.
10) What advise would you give to your manager this season?
I only have one simple request for Michael Laudrup and it’s this: “PLEASE STAY.”
United go into the game without everyone available. Rafael is injured as a result of last week but is suspended for this one anyway whilst Fletcher and Powell both definitely miss out. Young, Nani and Hernandez are doubts, as is Carrick who missed the England game with an eye infection. Rooney’s travelled with United to Wales and may end up on the bench.
Swansea’s only player definitely ruled out is de Guzman who has a head injury. Shelvey and Hernandez have both won fitness battles and Bony may only be on the bench after a busy international week.
Potential Manchester United line up
With Rafael injured, Moyes has two options for right back: Jones – a safe option, or Fabio – the riskier but maybe more attacking option. Upon picking his right back he can choose his centre back pairing and it seems likely that Ferdinand and Vidic will be United with Evans and Smalling missing out.
Taking into account Swansea’s style, controlling the game will be important so Moyes may opt to play all three of his central midfielders together in the hope of retaining possession and frustrating Swansea. It won’t leave him much in the way of options if he has to change it but both Januzaj and pushing Jones up into the midfield will be viable.
This point of the season is all about determining who’s most ready for competitive games. Clearly Kagawa for example has done less pre-season and looks slightly off the pace as a result so although he’d probably help with team shape, he’d be a risk. There’s the possibility of a youthful looking bench with Januzaj, Lingard and Zaha all likely to provide back-up given the first team players who look unlikely to be available.
All eyes will be on David Moyes as he takes charge of his first United league game. The large majority of the footballing world will be urging on Swansea, hoping to mark Moyes down as a failure. Swansea, as we discovered last season, are not to be underestimated. They’ve already played two competitive games and will be full of confidence after their comfortable dismantling of Malmo FF. That United have a tricky start to the season has been well documented but a win today could give the side a bit of momentum and set things up nicely for Chelsea next week. The heart says a narrow United win but the head says 1-1.