Fresh from securing a place in the Champions League group phase, Manchester United will aim to get back to winning ways in the Premier League at Swansea City on Sunday. United completed an emphatic aggregate triumph over Club Brugge in their playoff, with a 4-0 win in Belgium on Wednesday. Things have been less straightforward in the Premier League, however, where two unconvincing 1-0 wins were followed up with a goalless draw at home to Newcastle Untied last time out.
For manager Louis van Gaal, Sunday’s encounter will also be his 50th in charge of Manchester United. But he will be all too aware that a clash with Swansea promises to be no easy task. The Welsh side were the only team to take maximum points from United last season, which included a win at Old Trafford in Van Gaal’s very first match in charge.
"The first match I played was against Swansea," Van Gaal said, according to Sky Sports. "We lost and now I have to play them in my 50th match. I hope we can show our fans that we have improved because that is the main thing. Last year we lost all the points only against Swansea and I always want the improvement of my team and my players so I hope we can show that.
"I don't want to lose again. It's the only club we could not beat or gain one point against, I hope we can improve and that we can show that we are better than last year. It will be difficult but we are better prepared than this time last year."
United’s confidence should be boosted by Wayne Rooney ending his scoreless start to the season with a hat-trick against Club Brugge. Rooney’s fellow goalscorer on Wednesday, Ander Herrera, will be aiming to keep his place in the United team, especially with Adnan Januzaj sidelined by an injury picked up in Belgium. The Spaniard will face competition from Marouane Fellaini, with the former Everton man in contention for his first Premier League appearance of the season after completing a suspension.
While United have reason to think they are in a better place than this time last season, so too do Swansea. There was an element of the unknown about Garry Monk as he embarked on his first full season as a manager last term, but he exceeded expectations by leading them to their best ever Premier League finish. And, boosted by the high-profile addition of Ghanaian Andre Ayew in the summer, they have begun this season in encouraging fashion, going undefeated through three games.
"We’ve had some good performances so far in all the games we’ve played," Monk said in his pre-match press conference. "The group is working well, we are fully fit and there’s a lot of competition every single day.
"Expectations are higher than ever been before for us, but that is for us to deal with. We have our own expectations as well and of course We want to try and improve always year upon year and that’s what we’re looking to do this season. We’ve started well and it’s important that we carry this momentum that we’ve got."
Monk made 11 changes to his team for a 3-0 victory over York in the second round of the Capital One Cup in midweek. And, with a clean bill of health, all of those who featured in a 1-1 draw at Sunderland last time out could be restored, including Bafetimbi Gomis, who has scored in all three of Swansea’s league matches so far.
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra