Been going through Manchester United withdrawals over the last couple of weeks? You’re not the only one. Thankfully, there are no more international disruptions for quite a while. While next Tuesday’s match against Benfica looms large, United have some business to take care of before that crunch Champions League tie. United’s league slate for the remainder of the calendar year is a fairly favorable one, and they need to take full advantage of it in order to try to close the gap on City. It all starts with this evening’s clash at Swansea City, who might be a tough nut to crack after being thrown straight into the inferno in their first few months in the Premier League.
Well, there is no real recent history between the two sides, as they haven’t faced off since the 1982-83 season, the last time Swansea were in the top flight until this season.
That season, Swansea held United to a goalless draw at home, while United won 2-1 at home via goals from Bryan Robson and Frank Stapleton.
United weren’t dealt a very friendly slate hand for the first few months of the season, and neither were Swansea City, who have already faced road trips to Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool.
They finally got something to show for all of those travels a few weeks back when they held Liverpool to a goalless draw, but they also performed admirably against their other big-name opponents, losing to Arsenal 1-0 and holding City scoreless for almost an hour.
While things haven’t been so peachy on the road, home has been very sweet for Swansea thus far. Coming into today, Swansea are one of only four sides who are unbeaten at home, with City, Newcastle, and Liverpool being the others. In five home games, Swansea have won three and drawn two, and they’ve allowed only one goal.
It is worth noting, however, that their home opponents to date were Wigan, Sunderland, West Brom, Stoke City, and Bolton. Still, that’s a notable achievement, because for a promoted side to remain unbeaten at home for an extended stretch isn’t at all an easy feat.
Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers has already said that his side won’t be shy about coming forward against United, and their two biggest threats in attack are Danny Graham, who’s scored in four of his last five games, and Scott Sinclair, who has three Premier League goals thus far.
It would be nice to come out of the break with no injury concerns about key pieces, but that’s an early Christmas request that must have been lost in the mail.
Ashley Young is set to return to action today after not playing since the City match due to a toe injury, and that is a very, very welcome boost.
However, along with the news that Tom Cleverley is out for another month due to more ankle issues, Danny Welbeck won’t be available today due to a muscle strain suffered on international duty, and Chris Smalling isn’t expected to return until Tuesday.
You can’t always have what you want, but it doesn’t hurt that there didn’t have to be any concern about Wayne Rooney picking up a knock on international duty, and one would hope that a rested Rooney would be ready to come out firing today. The same can also be said for Nani, who had a thunderbolt of a strike against Bosnia on Tuesday.
While United come in with four wins on the trot, they haven’t really done it the easy way. Beggars can’t be choosers, sure, but it would be nice to see a little more pep in the step coming out of the break, especially considering a fair amount didn’t have to overexert themselves over the last couple of weeks.
Swansea will be ready for whatever United throw at them, after having to deal with the likes of Aguero, Van Persie, Torres, and Suarez already, and they run a tight ship at the back at home. So, a tame effort in attack might not get the job done, especially if the hosts manage to nick one themselves with their ambition.
Matches like these, that is, matches preceding a much more significant match, are always interesting, because you never know what to expect. But with so many being fully rested, this is a time where selections can’t be made based on trying to rest bodies for Tuesday.
Positive selections, positive result, positive return from the international break.
Score Prediction: Swansea City 1-2 Manchester United