This time last week it appeared that the only significant aspect about Swansea’s trip to Manchester United on Sunday would be the Premier League champions collecting their trophy after the final whistle. Not so now.
On Tuesday came the news that Sir Alex Ferguson would be stepping down as Manchester United manager after nearly 27 years in charge at the end of the season. It would be hard to say that the decision of a 71-year-old to retire came out of nowhere, yet, such was the length and success of his time at the helm that many fans could not envisage a time when he was not the man in charge and there was still a huge sense of shock when the announcement was made.
Saturday now represents the final chance for Old Trafford to give thanks to the club’s legendary boss, while he is still in the dugout.
It is sure to be an emotional occasion for Ferguson, the fans, but also the players.
“I am really sad to hear that the manager, Sir Alex is retiring, but I'm really happy I have had the opportunity and the honor to work with him,” Robin van Persie said on his Facebook page.
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“He is a great manager and above all even a greater person. I have to thank him for an amazing year and for making my dream come true by winning the league. I wish him and his family the very best.”
The manager of United’s opponents on Sunday, Michael Laudrup has also paid tribute to Ferguson and stated that he is honored to take his Swansea side to Old Trafford on such a special occasion.
“It seemed like he would go on and on,” he said, according to Swansea’s official website. “But this came out of the blue and caught us all by surprise a little.
“To leave after winning the league title once more is a great way to go out, but what makes it so special is that Sunday will be his last home game in charge and I’m proud to be the opponent.”
As for the match itself, United will have Rafael missing through suspension after the full-back picked up a red card in the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea last Sunday. Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling could return.
Swansea are hoping to have Spanish duo Chico Flores and Michu back after the pair missed Tuesday’s 3-2 victory at Wigan. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm is also a doubt, while Angel Rangel is ruled out.
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
M: Jones, Carrick
Valencia, Kagawa, Giggs
F: Van Persie
D: Tiendalli, Chico, Williams, Davies
M: De Guzman, Britton
Dyer, Routledge, Hernandez
Prediction: The enormity of the occasion is sure to have a big impact on the Manchester United players, but it remains to be seen whether it will act as an inspiration or a burden.
But the United squad will surely be desperate to put on a show in Ferguson’s final game in charge at Old Trafford and, against a Swansea side with little to play for, they should get a comfortable three points.
Manchester United 3-1 Swansea City
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League clash will kick-off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with an online stream available later in the day via Fox Soccer 2Go.