Manchester United face Swansea City for the second time in six days and will want to put a dreadful start to 2014 behind them with a victory at Old Trafford tomorrow.
A six game winning run is now a distant memory with United in poor form having lost three on the bounce for the first time since 2001. Defeats against Spurs, Swansea and most recently Sunderland have seen the pressure on David Moyes escalate with both the results, and perhaps more worryingly the performance levels, leaving much to be desired.
United currently sit a disappointing seventh in the table and their total of 34 points from 20 games is 15 points down on the 49 point total at the same time last season. Swansea have also been below par this year and sit in 13th place just four points off the relegation zone.
Swansea will go into the game high on confidence after won at Old Trafford for the first time in their history less than a week ago and the FA Cup performance was a microcosm of United’s season so far – turgid in midfield, unorganised in defence and lacking any imagination or penetration in possession.
Old Trafford has been far from a fortress under Moyes. Four defeats in six at home has been a real cause for concern and is something that has to be rectified if United are to turn their fortunes around in the second half of the season.
Team wise, United will be without a host of first team players again. Wayne Rooney has been sent to America some hot weather rehabilitation so will not feature and neither will Robin van Persie who isn’t ready to return either. The game should come too soon for Jonny Evans who limped off in midweek and an ever-growing injury list which also features Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Nani, Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones.
Meanwhile, Swansea also have a number of injury concerns. Michu, Nathan Dyer, Pablo Hernandez, Roland Lamah and goalkeeper Michel Vorm are all out while Jonathan De Guzman and Dwight Tiendalli are unlikely to recover from calf and groin injuries.
United know all about the danger Michael Laudrup’s side possess after a shock third round FA Cup exit last week and will be wary of the threat posed by striker Wilfried Bony. Bony’s winner on Sunday was his 10th of the season and the powerful Ivorian also found the net against United on the opening day of the campaign.
The aforementioned 4-1 win on Moyes’ first league outing as United boss in August saw Danny Welbeck and Van Persie score twice and with his Dutch colleague out injured, the goalscoring burden may once again fall with Welbeck who has been in match-winning form of late, having netted five goals in his last five league games.
Swansea have never beaten United in the league since promotion to the top flight three seasons ago having lost four and drawn once but confidence isn’t exactly flowing at United at the moment. This season, we’ve seen teams who have come to Old Trafford with a positive attitude generally being rewarded.
Some may feel United are there for the taking but Ryan Giggs has spoken publicly about the players needing to produce a response, something which Moyes is sure to demand off of his under-performing players and with Champions League qualification at stake, a victory is a necessity with big games coming thick and fast. Despite that, I don’t think it will happen.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Swansea