swansea Swansea City vs Manchester UnitedManchester_United_FC_crest_(c)_en(dot)wikipedia(dot)org

21st February 2015, GMT 15:00

Liberty Stadium, Swansea

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The biggest clich in the Premier League at the moment is that any team in the league is capable of defeating any other on its day. Manchester United manager found that it is a clich for a reason on his very first game (competitive) in-charge of the club when Swansea City defeated his all conquering team at Old Trafford. It was a shock result that Van Gaal has recently admitted took him by surprise.

So, when the 20-time champions travel to Wales on Saturday, surprise or shock is something Van Gaal wouldna t be. With Tottenham playing West Ham and Southampton hosting Liverpool, Uniteda s game against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium represents a huge chance for the club to establish a priceless lead over its rivals this weekend. Yet, the Dutch manager, who has been criticized for fielding defensive teams in a few games this season, will approach the match with caution.

Team News & Tactical Brief

Swansea City

After 25 games, Swansea have 34 points and are ninth in the table. They are 12 points ahead of the relegation zone and 12 points behind fourth place. The Swans quite simply are a mid-table team with not much to play for. Teams stuck in such a spot often find themselves lacking motivation and slipping down the table. That certainly seems to be the case with Swansea too as they have only managed winning one out of their last six games and are 13th on the form table.

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Ashley Williams will be key in defense if Swansea want to get a result against United

Their last outing resulted in a 2-0 defeat to strugglers West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthhorns. Garry Monk opted to play a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Cork sitting in front of the back four. Apart from Ki Sung-yueng, who scored a goal in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, none of the Swansea players put in a good showing against the Baggies last Wednesday.

Monk has at times shown some tactical intelligence as was the case in his sidea s 1-0 win against Southampton earlier in the month. Playing at St. Marya s Swansea conceded possession allowing Southampton to control the game. On the break, they hit the home side with a sizzling Shelvey strike. Van Gaala s United will need to be careful of just that as they also love to control the game with lots of possession.

Predicted Line-up (4-2-3-1): Fabianski, FernA?ndez, Williams, Taylor, Naughton, Shelvey, Cork, Dyer, Ki Sung-yueng, Montero, Gomis

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Manchester United

United come into the game with a come from behind win against Preston North End in the FA Cup. Once again the team looked ordinary early on, but seemed to have some fire later on. For all the criticism of defensive football, United have actually scored an impressive 13 goals in the last 5 games in all competition.

In all those games, the team played with a four at the back

Fellaini has put in some strong performances since being brought back

Fellaini has put in some strong performances since being brought back

formation while the midfield was almost never the same. Yet, somehow, Van Gaala s United look far from convincing. The Dutch manager has revealed that he has a full pot of players to choose from with only Michael Carrick on the injury list.

Ita ll be interesting to see whether, Van Gaal finally drops Radamel Falcao and puts Wayne Rooney up top alongside Robin Van Persie. Ander Herrera, who was bought in the summer for around A?30m, hasna t made too many starts, but will expect to be in the line-up after scoring a crucial equaliser against Preston on Monday. Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini also flourished when he was moved up field, scoring the second goal for United in the match.

Predicted Line-up (4-1-2-1-2): De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Shaw, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria, Fellaini, Rooney, Van Persie

Key Statistics

  • The Swans have scored just nine goals in their last 11 Premier League games and not more than once in a game in that run.
  • Manchester United have conceded a league high 46 per cent of their goals from set pieces.
  • However, no team has scored fewer goals from set pieces than Swansea (4) and no team has netted a lower proportion via this route (14 per cent).
  • The Red Devils have lost just one of their last 15 Premier League matches (W10 D4 L1). In that 15 game run, they have picked up more points than any other team in the top flight.

Key Player

Daley Blind

Van Gaala s compatriot Daley Blind is his go to man. Another summer signing, Blind goes about his work without making any qualms about it. He distributes the ball well, marshalling the back four and the days United play well, it is usually starts from him. To stop United on Saturday, Swansea will need to press Blind hard.

Final Prediction

Swansea 1-2 Manchester United

Not because United are the better team, but simply because they seem to be more motivated at this point in time. It also offers them a chance to open up potential four and five point leads over Southampton and Arsenal if results go their way.

Blast from the Past