Van Gaal To Keep The Swans Grounded In Opener
Man Utd v Swansea
Louis Van Gaal leads his Manchester United team out at Old Trafford on Saturday at 12.45 to take on Swansea in his first Barclay’s Premier League game.
Manchester United’s near perfect pre-season concluded with a 2-1 win over Valencia on Tuesday night, thanks to an injury-time goal from Marouanne Fellaini.
Louis van Gaal’s men have also beaten LA Galaxy, Roma, Real Madrid and Liverpool in the past three weeks, with the only slight blemish on their record being a goalless draw with Inter – although they did go on to win the subsequent penalty shoot-out.
Wayne Rooney has scored five pre-season goals, while Ashley Young has netted four times and Juan Mata twice as the Red Devils scored 18 goals in six games leading up to the start of the new season.
Swansea’s pre-season preparations have been a little more of a mixed bag as they beat Plymouth, Exeter and Reading, but lost to Bournemouth and, most recently, Villarreal.
Encouragingly for Gary Monk, summer signing Bafetimbi Gomis has got off the mark with a couple of goals in pre-season, while Gylfi Sigurdsson also grabbed a brace in the 4-0 win against Plymouth.
Summer signing Luke Shaw has been ruled out for around four weeks so will not be able to make his competitive debut this weekend. Ander Herrera is, however, expected to make his Old Trafford bow.
Robin van Persie, Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans and Antonio Valencia are all also out through injury,
although there is a slight chance that the latter two may feature, while Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj have only briefly featured in pre-season and are short of match fitness.
The Swans have lost goalkeeper Michel Vorm and defender Chico Flores over the course of the summer. Lukasz Fabianski has come in to replace the former, while fellow new signings Gomis and Sigurdsson will also make their competitive debuts.
Leon Britton and Marvin Emnes are set to miss the game due to respective knee injuries.
Manchester Untied won both Premier League meetings between the two clubs last season, with Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck each scoring twice for the Red Devils in a 4-1 win at the Liberty Stadium on the opening day of the campaign.
Bony was also on the scoresheet in a 2-1 Swansea victory in the FA Cup third round at the beginning of January – the first time that the Welsh club had beaten Manchester United since 1982.
The arrival of Van Gaal and a set of positive results in pre-season has many purring at the prospect of United challenging for the title again this season.
But at odds of 3/10 to pick up three points in the Dutchman’s first Premier League fixture they are plenty short enough. Swansea are 9/1 to spoil the party with a win, while it is 4/1 that the teams share the points.
When it came to the knockout stages of this summer’s World Cup the Dutch were a lot more pragmatic in their approach, and I think we can expect something similar from United, at least in the early stages of the Van Gaal era.
And with Swansea likely to go to Old Trafford content to pick up a point from the opening game of the season, my bet of the game is to back Under 2.5 goals at odds of 11/10.
Most neutrals will be hoping and expecting to see a continuation of the summer’s carnival of football, but in betting it often pays to go against popular consensus.