BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
VENUE – Liberty Stadium (Capacity – 20,532)
KO – 1330 GMT
REFEREE – Michael Oliverse
It is the festive season and the fixtures come in at a fast pace in England. The weekend, boxing day, the new year’s day and then the weekend again. Time passes by at a blistering pace at this point of the year. Swansea has had a good run thus far in the top tier of English football. Inspired by Michu, the Spanish summer signing, Swansea is as high as 10th in the league. Michael Laudrup, the Danish legend, is an admirer of fast flowing football and his team is responding the benefits of it. They face an in-form Manchester United, top of the league and very dangerous going forward with the likes of Persie and Rooney leading the attack. United, usually pick up the pace in the second half of the season and leave teams strolling behind. Swanea has already nicked points off Chelsea while beating Arsenal at the Emirates. Alex Ferguson will ensure that despite a 6 point lead at the top, there is no complacency shown by his team. Both the teams are naturally attack minded and the game promises to have a lot of goals in it.
Michael Laudrup, in his playing days appeared for Madrid, Barcelona and Ajax among several others. All these teams have a tradition of attacking football which excites the fans. The Dane himself is regarded as on the best players to have ever graced the football field. After retirement, he is into his second innings in football. As a coach, Laudrup is instilling the same philosophies that he is familiar with i.e. a fast flowing and attacking brand of football. Swansea’s first aim is to secure Premier league status. Laudrup, though has his sights on much more. His efforts have led his team to 10th spot in the league. They beaten the likes of Arsenal, held Chelsea and Liverpool, beaten QPR 5-0. It is no surprise about their standing in the league this season. Miguel Perez Cuesta, popularly known as Michu, has been brilliant this season. The Spaniard has already scored 12 goals this season and leads the scoring charts with United’s striker Robin van Persie.
December is usually the month when United turn it around and hardly drop points. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are on the top of the table with a 6 point lead over neighbors Manchester City. These are ominous signs for the other teams. United have a relatively easy fixtures over the Christmas period. The Red Devils will be hoping to gain maximum points over this period. The return of captain Vidic is like a new signing. It will take time for the Serbian to be back at his best but his presence in the centre of defense was something that was missed by United. The no-nonsense attitude of Vidic is what United need at the moment. The 4-4-2 formation has been much more effective than the diamond formation that has been deployed this season. The United manager, after toying with both the formations seems to have finally, decided on the traditional formation. Swansea will prove tough opponents and the league leaders will have to be on their guard against the newly promoted side. Michu, has been a revelation this season and given United’s past defensive problems, it will be an enticing contest.
Swansea – Michu, who sustained a head injury against Spurs last week, is all fit to feature in this match. The Danish manager usually opts for an attacking 4-4-2 formation, with Michu leading the attack. Rangel their first choice full back faces a late fitness test for a calf injury. Williams, who has been outstanding this season in the middle of defense, will partner Chico. The duo will need to be at their best to keep the array of attacking talent their opponents possess. The Welsh club adopt a more conservative 4-5-1 approach against bigger teams which means Britton and Sung-Yueng will be partening de Guzman in the middle of the park with Dyer and Routledge on the wings. Michu, has been their go to guy this season and he will be heading the attack. The Welsh club will have to be cautious and will be under attack for most part of the game but with the quality of Michu , they can surprise United just like they shocked Arsenal.
Manchester United – Nemanja Vidic, returned after a 3 month layout and it has given the United manager a big boost ahead of the festive fixtures. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have also featured prominently in the first team since their return. The defensive problems seem to have ended for the club. Ferdinand and Vidic seem to be the first choice partnership in the centre of defense but the performance of Evans and Smalling has given Ferguson food for thought. Michael Carrick, who has been in imperious form this season, is nursing a knock. He will face a late fitness test for the match. His partner Cleverly has been in decent form and will be the preferred choice ahead of Scholes. Ferguson’s team has been firing on all cylinders this season as far as attack is concerned. Rooney and Persie will continue their partnership upfront with Young and Valencia on the wings with a 4-4-2 formation which has worked much better than the diamond formation.
Swansea – Miguel Perez Cuesta (Michu) – The summer signing from Rayo Vallecano has been an absolute revelation for the Welsh side. 12 goals in 16 matches and that too in a new country, team and league is an achievement of sorts. The Spanish striker has made scoring goals look easy. He scored at the Emirates to help Swansea earn an impressive win against the Gunners. He is very good in the air as well his feet. He will be a constant threat for the United defenders and will have to be at his very best if Swansea are to get anything from the game.
Manchester United – Tom Cleverly– Swansea are a very attacking and fast paced team. This is the reason why Cleverly will be a very important man on Sunday. He will have to not only help in attack but also help his midfield partner in cutting out the attacking threats of the Welsh side. He will have to ensure that the supply line to Michu is not as effective as it has been all season. Last week’s goal against Sunderland shows that he can add goals to his repertoire and that will be very important for the club. His understanding with Carrick has been good and the manager will be hoping for the form to continue.
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