Manchester United will be keen to put a stop to their recent run of bad results when they host Swansea City at Old Trafford on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The reigning Premier League champions are seventh in the table with 34 points from 10 wins, four draws and six defeats. They are 11 points short of leaders Arsenal and five points from the top four with just over half of the campaign completed.
It is not the season David Moyes would have envisioned when he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer. The former Everton boss has found himself under increased scrutiny in recent times following defeats in each of United’s last three matches in all competitions, including a 2-1 loss at home to Swansea in the FA Cup last weekend.
Moyes will surely be keen to bolster his squad in January, with money seemingly available to spend following a disappointing summer window in which United chased a number of mobile, creative midfielders before eventually signing one (Marouane Fellaini) who possessed neither of those attributes.
He also needs to bring more diversity to Man Utd’s attacks. Only three teams have played more crosses as a percentage of total passes than United’s 5.1% so far this season and their reliance on crosses reached its nadir in the recent home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. United hoisted in a total of 47, none of which produced a goal.
Players like Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, even Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj, look more comfortable linking in close quarters through the middle than they do supplying or getting on the end of crosses. While wide play was always a hallmark of the Ferguson era, there was always variety to United’s attacking play and Moyes needs to bring that back.
Man Utd have a number of injury doubts for Saturday’s match, with Johnny Evans (back), Phil Jones (knee), Rio Ferdinand (knee) and Rooney (groin) all facing late fitness tests. Ashley Young (shoulder), Nani (hamstring) and Van Persie (thigh) are likely to miss out. Fabio is suspended, while Fellaini will be out of action until the end of February with a wrist injury.
Swansea have had an up and down league campaign so far, but still find themselves in a relatively comfortable 13th in the table, with 21 points from five wins, six draws and nine defeats. The club’s participation in the Europa League has stretched their resources, while ankle problems have limited the involvement of last season’s star player, Michu.
Michael Laudrup’s side come into Saturday’s match on the back six league matches without victory, but there have, nevertheless, been some encouraging signs for the Dane in recent matches. Swansea gave as good as they got in a 3-2 defeat at home to Manchester City in their last league match and his game plan worked perfectly in their FA Cup win over United.
Issues do persist. Swansea play nice neat football, but do not create enough good quality chances in the final third, particularly in comparison to the number they concede. Record summer signing Wilfried Bony (pictured) has showed signs in recent weeks that he could be the man to provide more firepower, but Laudrup also needs to tighten his defensive unit if Swansea are to stabilise.
The Swans have a number of injury absentees for Saturday’s match, with wingers Pablo Hernandez (hamstring), Nathan Dyer (ankle) and Roland Lamah (groin), goalkeeper Michel Vorm (knee) and Michu (ankle) all but certain to miss out. Garry Monk is doubtful, despite making good progress in his return from knee surgery.
Man Utd v Swansea Betting Tips Advice
Swansea caused an upset by knocking Man Utd out of the FA Cup last weekend, but it is United who have triumphed most often in meetings between the sides since Swansea’s promotion to the Premier League in 2011. They have won four of the five encounters, including last season’s equivalent fixture and a 4-1 win away in Wales earlier this season.
Old Trafford has not been the fortress of old this season, with United having already suffered more home defeats (four) than in any season in the past decade. Teams have been able to sit back, defend against their predictable attacking patterns and then strike on the break.
Swansea are certainly in far from good form and have struggled defensively at times this season, but Laudrup showed in the FA Cup tie that he is capable of setting up a side to be competitive against these opponents. If Rooney returns then Man Utd will be a more fearsome attacking prospect but if they do emerge victorious the winning margin is unlikely to be large.
- Back Swansea +1.5 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 3/5 with Bet365. The bet pays out if Swansea win, draw or lose by less than two goals
- Bony ended a seven-match scoreless streak with a double in Swansea’s defeat to Manchester City and followed it with the winner against United in the FA Cup. He will be the focal point of their attacking efforts on Saturday and is capable of silencing the Old Trafford crowd once again. Back Wilfried Bony to score at anytime @ best odds of 3/1 with Betfred.