Swansea vs Manchester United: Match preview and predictions
As the Barclays Premier League enters Matchweek 4, the focus will definitely be on last-minute transfer deals as most clubs look to build squads capable of accomplishing their objectives for the season before the summer transfer window shuts on Tuesday, September 1, 2015.
Back on the field though, this Sunday sees Manchester United travel to Wales for their Premier League encounter with in-form Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. The Red Devils - high on confidence after their demolition of Club Brugge at the Jan Breydel Stadium on Wednesday to qualify for the Group Stages- are yet to concede a goal after their opening 3 games, with Sergio Romero, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind being the central figures in defence.
Smalling’s pin-point tackles in the 12-yard region and Daley Blind’s key interceptions to foil opposition attacks are the two primary factors responsible for keeping a hat-trick of clean sheets this season.
However, the Swans, like United are also yet to be beaten in the league, including a deserved point against champions Chelsea. Their wingers have created all sorts of problems for the opposition full-backs, with Jefferson Montero dominating the right-wing and new-signing Andre Ayew on the left wing. Striker Bafetimbi Gomis has ensured that Swansea haven’t had to rue the departure of Wilfried Bony in January, scoring 3 goals in as many games this campaign. With Jonjo Shelvey also in sublime form in a box-to-box midfield role, this Swansea attack is expected to open up the Man United defence on Sunday. But can it?
Who has impressed so far?
Matteo Darmian (Man United)
Position: Right back
Brought in from Torino in July, this 25-year-old right back has quickly adapted to Louis van Gaal’s 4-2-3-1 system, running tirelessly down the right flank, and then rushing back to defend when necessary.
Having made the most successful tackles per game for Manchester United (4.7) until this stage of the season, he has shown immense promise as a full-back and is highly regarded as being the next Gary Neville. Time will tell whether the Italian can live up to this tag on his back.
It will be interesting to see how he handles the mazy run-ins of Andre Ayew, who has been influential in most of Swansea City’s attacks thus far this season, scoring 2 goals.
Morgan Schneiderlein (Man United) ?
Position: Central midfielder
Spotted by Louis van Gaal as a long-term replacement for an ageing Michael Carrick, this French midfielder was recruited from Southampton, and what a terrific piece of business this has proved to be for the Old Trafford club.
He has played a key role for United in front of the defence this season, with an impressive pass completion rate of 89.8% and also having made more interceptions and successful dribbles than any of his team-mates. His wonderful lay-off for Luke Shaw against Newcastle proved that he can be a useful entity in the final third as well.
Defensive-midfielder role is one of the most underrated positions on a football pitch, and Schneiderlein is a near-perfect example of it. His contribution to the game is compared to the engine of an automobile- if it works, the automobile runs, if it doesn’t, the entire system malfunctions. Such is the invaluable role the French midfielder provides to United’s game with his passes, interceptions and ability to stop counter-attacks.
It will take some effort for the Swansea attacking midfield comprising of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Shelvey to outsmart this impressive Man United signing.
Jack Cork (Swansea)
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Another player who has stood out in the defensive-midfield role is this Southampton recruit, Jack Cork. Like Morgan Schneiderlein, he boasts impressive stats of 5 interceptions per game, a pass completion rate of 91.3% and an average of 3 aerial duels won every game.
He, along with Jonjo Shelvey, will make it difficult, if not nearly impossible, for the Man United attacking midfield to slot that decisive pass into the Swansea opposition for striker Wayne Rooney to capitalise on.
Who needs to step up?
Wayne Rooney (Man United)
He may have scored a hat-trick against a pedestrian Club Brugge defence, but Wayne Rooney is smart enough to realise that the Swansea centre-back pairing of Ashley Williams and Federico Fernandez are a much harder nut to crack.
He needs to be more efficient when the ball arrives at his feet in the 18-yard box. His inconsistent decision-making in front of goal is hurting his goal count, which right now stands at zero for the season. The fact that the United skipper made just a single touch inside the box during the Aston Villa game two weeks ago is alarming.
Louis van Gaal has suggested a solution to his problem, and that is to deploy the authoritative Marouane Fellaini in a central forward role to help his captain out by winning crosses with his height and power and laying off the ball for Rooney to find the back of the net. It looks an exciting tactic on paper, but will it work on the pitch?
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)?
Position: Attacking Midfielder
For a man who contributed so much towards Swansea’s eighth place finish in the previous campaign, this season has been surprisingly quiet for Gylfi Sigurdsson. He has lacked that decisive lay off for Bafetimbi Gomis upfront. Jonjo Shelvey is currently carrying the role Sigurdsson generally plays so well (along with his duties in defensive midfield), and the Icelandic midfielder must quickly up his game to reduce the load on Shelvey.
Swansea have depended on their wingers delivering crosses into the penalty area for their goals, and it is high time Sigurdsson did his job in the final third to provide more opportunities for Swansea to bulge the net. Will the Man United game be the one where he re-discovers his form? Sunday is when we get the answer.
Though Man United have been resolute in defence in the opening three games, Gomis’ height and strength could prove one too many a challenge for make-shift centre-back Daley Blind.
With their wingers also in good touch, Man United’s full-backs Darmian and Luke Shaw are set to face their first real tests of the season. Swansea also have a Gomis look-alike in terms of height and physical appearance in the form of Portuguese striker Eder, in case the French striker is unable to be an influence in the opening half.
With Marouane Fellaini having completed his suspension, Louis van Gaal will be delighted to welcome him back to the Matchday Squad. He should replace Januzaj in the attacking-midfield role to add another dimension to Man United’s attacking-index by creating chaos for the Swansea centre-backs in dealing with long balls. In-case the slick passing technique fails to materialise, ‘long-ball-to-Fellaini’ is always around the corner.
Expect an entertaining encounter at the Liberty Stadium, with both attack-minded teams gunning to keep their unbeaten record intact heading into the international break.
Swansea 2-2 Manchester United