It was never going to be easy for any man taking over from the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, but David Moyes has endured a particularly challenging summer. The former Everton boss's thus far failed transfer dealings have been played out in public, while preseason performances, admittedly far from the best barometer of future success, have been less than inspiring. All that makes the start to his first season as Manchester United boss all the more important.
Yet, Moyes also faces a real challenge in that regard. Although his insinuation that United’s incredibly tough start to the campaign was produced by something other than an objective computer appeared an unwise attempt to channel his predecessor, Moyes’s frustration with the fixtures is understandable. And, while many have focused on meetings in the first five games with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, an opening trip to Swansea City is far from a gentle easing into Moyes’s new role.
"It's a very tough away fixture," Moyes told MUTV. "Michael Laudrup has done a really good job there and strengthened the team a lot this summer. I would expect Swansea to have another season as good as last year and they've already had a couple of European games as well which gives them the feeling they are a little more match-ready.”
Moyes has several selection issues with which to contend. Rafael is out with suspension, and is injured anyway, while Michael Carrick, Javier Hernandez, Nani, Jonny Evans and Ashley Young are all doubtful with various ailments. Although his transfer saga has dominated the summer and he has played virtually no part in preseason, Wayne Rooney remains a Manchester United player and is part of the squad that travels to Wales.
After a transfer dispute threatened to lead to Laudrup’s exit earlier in the summer, Swansea have been able to impressively bolster a squad that achieved a League Cup triumph and top-half Premier League finish last season. The big arrival is last term’s Eredivisie top scorer Wilfried Bony, who should allow last summer’s key signing Michu to revert to his more natural position behind a main striker. Meanwhile, the signings of the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Jordi Amat and Jose Canas adds strength to a squad that will have to cope with the demands of European action this campaign.
Laudrup will be without Jonathan de Guzman for the visit of the champions after the midfielder suffered a concussion following a collision with Dirk Kuyt while on international duty with the Netherlands.
Swansea City (probable)
D: Rangel, Chico, Williams, Taylor
M: Britton, Ki
Dyer, Michu, Hernandez
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra
M: Carrick, Giggs
Valencia, Kagawa, Welbeck
F: Van Persie
Prediction: Moyes scored a much needed victory by claiming the Community Shield over Wigan last week. Still, the performance was predominantly functional and showed that, unless major signings are forthcoming, much will again depend on the form of Robin van Persie. Swansea, already battle-hardened and having improved over the summer, should provide a stern test for the champions and United may not be too disappointed to leave with a point.
Swansea 1-1 Manchester United
Where to watch: The match will kick-off at 12.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Extra.