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article imageTactical Preview: Swansea - Manchester United

By Tyrrell Meertins     Aug 28, 2015 in Sports
Manchester United’s trip to Swansea represents an ideal platform to rectify past mistakes, as the club aims to exceed last year’s fourth place finish.
Gary Monk’s Swansea did the double over United last year, and though both sides enter the clash unbeaten, the Red Devils’ midweek win in Belgium will boost the confidence within Louis van Gaal’s camp.
United’s excessive summer spending puts pressure on Van Gaal to claim silverware or mount a legitimate title challenge, and while the critics have been harsh towards his personnel – in particular, Wayne Rooney – a convincing 4-0 victory over Club Brugge could serve as the catalyst towards a potential winning run.
Both sides enter the match unbeaten, but United’s four clean sheets from five games combined with their midweek result in Europe, tips them as slight favourites. However, it appears that the key matchups lie out on the flanks where Memphis Depay will be up against Kyle Naughton, while Jefferson Montero will be aiming to torment the impressive Matteo Darmian.
Naughton’s performances have been diverse to the start season – the full back is superb going forward, yet underwhelming when defending – and Depay will relish 1v1 battles against the Swansea right-back. With Andre Ayew moving into narrow positions, Naughton is capable of playing clever passes into the channels and half space – a similar pass created Bafetimbi Gomis’ opener at Sunderland.
In contrast, the Swansea defender has been a liability against attack-minded wingers that prefer to cut-infield. Gabriel Obertan easily skipped past the right back in a 2-0 win at Newcastle, whereas Jermain Defoe ran across Naughton to equalize last week. Depay fits the mould of the aforementioned left-sided players – in terms of their role – as he constantly seeks to cut onto his stronger right foot to shoot. Luke Shaw is also likely to receive freedom to surge forward due to Andre Ayew’s narrow positioning, and Naughton may succumb to heavy pressure via overloads.
Likewise, Jefferson Montero is currently one of the most exciting players in the league, and could prove to be Matteo Darmian’s first legitimate test of the season. In reality, Montero’s play has been occasionally inconsistent with his attempts to menace towards the byline, but he’s offered an impact in each game thus far.
First he destroyed Branislav Ivanovic on several occasions, and created Ayew’s goal at Stamford Bridge. Then, Montero’s sharp turns in transition countered Daryl Janmaat’s tight pressing, ultimately resulting in the Dutchman’s premature first half dismissal – the Ecuadorian winger subsequently stormed down that flank to create Ayew’s second goal of the season.
And though Montero endured a subdued opening half hour at the Stadium of Light, he also forced Sunderland defender, Sebastien Coates into a booking. Darmian has been the brightest United signing of the summer, yet Montero forcing all three full-backs he’s encountered into bookings should worry the Italian.
Similar to Montero’s showing against Newcastle, the entire Swansea XI encountered difficulties bypassing Sunderland’s pressing in midfield, and it’s possible that Van Gaal may replicate that approach. With that being said, Morgan Schneiderlin is expected to return into midfield alongside Michael Carrick – the duo pressed superbly against Spurs on opening weekend, and the side’s improved shape and work ethic should fluster Monk’s men.
Adnan Januzaj picked up an injury midweek, thus handing Van Gaal the option to either reward Ander Herrera with a place in a midfield three or no.10 role, or turn to Marouane Fellaini, who returns from a three-match league ban. Perhaps Herrera’s midweek goal should merit a start, but Van Gaal may attempt to unsettle the combative duo of Federico Fernandez and Ashley Williams, with a physical presence to create space for Rooney.
Rooney’s midweek hat-trick is undoubtedly his best display of the season, thus far, but with limited space in the channels and two physical centre-backs tracking his movement, the United captain will find it difficult to surge into the areas that resulted in goals. Swansea will effectively drop into a narrow 4-5-1 with Sigurdsson and Shelvey expected to press the United deep-lyers, as a scrappy battle could commence in central areas.
An abundance of space and a weakened, attack-minded Brugge side contributed to United’s midweek triumph, but Van Gaal may be better suited to play reactive, opposed to monopolizing long spells of possession. The calm presence of Ki Sung-yeung is expected to return to the Swansea XI to aid the hosts in retaining the ball, whereas the attacking quartet poses a legitimate threat on the break through Montero and Ayew’s pace.
Monk’s attack has heavily relied on Montero’s width, due to Ayew drifting in field from the right, and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s slow start to the campaign. Rarely has the Iceland international linked midfield and attack in the opposition’s half this season, as we’ve only witnessed glimpses of brilliance rather than Sigurdsson consistently influencing the match between the lines. Sigurdsson’s mediocre form could tempt Monk to move to a 4-3-3 with Jack Cork, but manager is likely to stick with the Swansea no.10.
Meanwhile, Gomis has scored in all three league games this season, and his physical presence and intelligent movement off the ball will cause United problems. The away side will hope Chris Smalling can maintain his imperious form to cope with his threat upfront, but expect the Swansea striker to target Daley Blind, who from a defensive perspective, can be a liability.
Considering Van Gaal practically fielded his best XI in Belgium, this serves as a great initial opportunity to witness how the Dutchman copes with United’s travels in the Champions League. But with the midfield expected to be congested, the team that copes best against the extremely talented wide players should prevail.
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