After an impressive pre-season, Manchester United kick off the new Premier League season at home to Swansea on Saturday (12:45 BST, live on BT Sport).
United endured a difficult campaign last season, finishing seventh – a full 22 points behind title winners Manchester City. David Moyes was sacked in April and United enter the new season under the stewardship of the former Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal (pictured).
Van Gaal came into the job on the back of leading Netherlands to the last four of the World Cup and has made a strong impression since taking over. United were unbeaten during pre-season, defeating LA Galaxy, Roma, Internazionale (on penalties), Real Madrid, Liverpool and Valencia in a series of solid and promising performances.
The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has implemented the same 3-4-1-2 formation that he used with the Netherlands during the World Cup. It is a formation that allows Juan Mata the freedom to create from his favoured central role, with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney ahead of him and two wing-backs providing width in the final third.
United are still expected to dip into the transfer market for further defensive and midfield reinforcements ahead of the new season, but have so far spent wisely. Ander Herrera has settled in quickly, producing a string of strong midfield performances during pre-season, while Luke Shaw is full of promise and should benefit greatly from Van Gaal’s coaching.
Shaw will, however, miss this match with a hamstring injury that is likely to keep him out of action for up to four weeks. Van Gaal will also definitely be without Michael Carrick (ankle), while Antonio Valencia (leg), Danny Welbeck (knee), Johnny Evans (knock), Rafael (groin) and Van Persie, who returned later than most from the World Cup, are doubtful.
Swansea finished 12th in the Premier League last season. Garry Monk was handed the manager’s job on a permanent contract after guiding the team to safety after replacing Michael Laudrup on a caretaker basis in February and will be targeting a similar finish this time around.
The Swans won three, lost two and drew one in pre-season, but were comprehensively defeated 3-0 by Spanish side Villarreal in their final match prior to the start of the league season. If their friendly performances are anything to go by, Monk appears likely to maintain the possession-based approach of recent years.
Four first-team regulars have departed over the summer. Ben Davies and Michel Vorm were sold to Tottenham Hotspur, Michu – scorer of 20 goals in two seasons at the Liberty Stadium – moved to Napoli on loan, while Chico Flores was sold to Lekhwiya. Bafetimbi Gomis, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero, Lukasz Fabianski and Marvin Emnes have been brought in.
Michu will be missed but last season’s top scorer, Wilfried Bony, remains for now, while Sigurdsson, who starred during a loan spell at the club in 2012, Gomis and the talented but eternally frustrating Montero should also provide a solid goal threat. If Monk can get his defence well-organised, a mid-table finish is a distinct possibility.
Monk will be without Emnes (knee) and Leon Britton (knee) for the trip to Old Trafford. Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge missed the friendly defeat to Villarreal but are expected to return to the side for Saturday’s fixture.
Man Utd vs Swansea Betting Tips Verdict
These two sides also met on the first day of last season, albeit in Swansea, with two goals from Van Persie seeing United to a 4-1 victory. United were also victorious in the league fixture at Old Trafford, but went down to a 2-1 home defeat to the Swans in the third round of the FA Cup. Swansea have never won a league match at Old Trafford.
United come into the new campaign determined to get back into the top four after the disappointment of last season. Van Gaal has attacked his new role with gusto and the results to date augur well for their chances of doing so. They are playing with confidence and will want to begin the season with a home victory.
Swansea have done solid business over the summer and despite patchy pre-season results will be relatively confident of securing a mid-table finish. They are a neat and tidy side, but United have the necessary individual quality in attack to overcome them and secure three points on the Premier League’s opening day.
- Back Manchester United -1.5 on the Asian Handicap @ 11/10 with Bet365.
- Van Gaal has shown great faith in Rooney by handing him the captain’s armband for the new season ahead of his strike partner Van Persie, who was Van Gaal’s captain with Netherlands. We expect Rooney to begin to repay that faith with a goal on Saturday. Back Wayne Rooney to score at anytime @ 10/11 with Bet365, William Hill, Boylesports or Stan James.