Another international break has come and gone and United return to football this weekend with an away day at newly promoted Welsh side Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. Sitting five points behind league leaders City, we can ill afford to drop points if we are not going to let them create a substantial gap at the top of the Premier League but considering how well Swansea have performed at home this season, this will be a far from straight forward match.
Brendan Rodgers has worked wonders with a Swansea team that is showing great calibre and consistency for a newly promoted team. With five clean sheets this season, they have the best record in the Premier League and with four of those clean sheets coming at home, Liberty Stadium has become the hunting ground for Swansea. United, however, have kept four clean sheets since the game that must not be named and will be looking to build on the defensive form that has helped seal the wounds of that day. The defensive prowess of Swansea is thanks in no small part to their goalkeeper, Michel Vorm. Swansea’s last match, an away day at Anfield, saw them spur chances to win the match but will be remembered for a string of fine saves from the Dutch goalkeeper that earned them a well deserved 0-0 draw. We know how tough an away day at Anfield is, so SAF will be making sure that we go out today with zero complacency and give Swansea the respect that they have earned so far this season. Time and time again this season, probably largely to do with the fact that we have lost so much experience in the team, United have switched off in comfortable positions and self-exploded (look no further than the 3-3 draw with Basel, for example). We can ill afford to have a repeat performance of any lack of concentration today but with a midfield looking far from secure, it won’t be an easy task against a ball playing Swansea team.
It has been confirmed that Tom Cleverley will be out of action for United until Christmas and this is an absolutely massive blow for us. Few fans can question the impact that Tom had on his introduction to first team football. He brought an unequivocal fluidity to the United midfield that no other midfield player has replaced so far and he managed to do what everyone at United has been trying for years to achieve, he brought the best out of our Samba star, Anderson. His form has been pretty dismal since Tom hobbled off at Bolton and it doesn’t seem to matter who partners him in the middle of the park, he just seems lost. For me, give Morrison a chance. What harm can it do? What are our other options? We have exhausted our choices to such an extent that Rooney and Park were our midfield pairing at one point and maybe a first team opportunity is what Ravel needs to stop his behaviour spiralling continuously downwards. Whatever the result tonight, I feel that the battle in the midfield is where it will be won or lost. Swansea have scored the least amount of goals in the Premier League this season, 19, and United will be confident in shutting them out once again, so the onus will be on the midfield to link the play up to allow the attack to punish the Swansea goal.
We have been pretty lacklustre in front of goal recently having failed to score more than one goal in a game since the 2-0 victory over Norwich a while ago. I think that is because Rooney has been forced to play a central midfield role, we have looked toothless up front and need our talisman to spearhead the attack. The return to fitness of Young is well timed as well because he was fantastic in our early season form and a sublime goal from Nani against Bosnia this week will hopefully help him find his form again. Welbeck, although ruled out of the midweek international fixture against Sweden, is apparently ready to play tonight but I feel that SAF will go with a straight up 4-4-2 formation with Rooney and Hernandez playing in front of Young/Anderson/Fletcher/Nani.
With such a good home record for a newly promoted team, Liberty Stadium will be rocking today and if United are to stop the media bandwagon, then we will have to pull our socks up and put pressure on City to not slip up. Once January comes, then we can up the gear and put on our typical new year form that has become synonymous with our title winning credentials down the years. Now is the time for a push before Christmas because the last thing we want is City sitting pretty atop the Premier League come January.