Manchester United begin a period of four matches in 10 days that could have a big impact on their attempts to win back the Premier League title with a trip to Swansea on Sunday.
Three points clear of defending champions Manchester City after their rivals’ last minute win against Reading, United will be eager to reestablish their cushion at the summit. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have now won five league matches on the bounce, but United’s boss has admitted that he will need to make full use of his squad if that record is to continue over the hectic festive season.
“Absolutely. No doubt,” Ferguson replied when asked if he would be rotating his lineup, according to Manchester United’s official website. “It won't be the same team in any of these games. There will be changes each game."
United did the double over Swansea last season and defender Jonny Evans—who signed a new four-year contract in the last week—said that the Welsh side’s style is a good match for the Red Devils.
"If you look at Swansea, they play like a European side,” he said. “They like to keep the ball on the floor and pass it around, which you don't always get an awful lot of in the Premier League.
"That will suit us. We are used to playing against European competition."
Evans is available again after a hamstring injury, but could find his place taken by Nemanja Vidic. The United captain made his return off the bench in last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Sunderland. Michael Carrick is doubtful with a tight hamstring, while Rafael, Nani and Shinji Kagawa all remain on the sidelines.
Swansea have made a smooth transition under new coach Michael Laudrup and it is tribute to the Danish legend that his side are five points better off than this time last year. Still, Laudrup will have little room for complacency.
After a memorable win at Arsenal at the start of December, Swansea have now recorded consecutive defeats in the Premier League and will be eager to kick-start their busy period.
Swansea have received a significant boost ahead of United’s visit with the return to fitness of goalkeeper Michel Vorm. Also potentially important is the availability of Pablo Hernandez following a thigh problem. Full-back Angel Rangel is still a doubt with a calf injury.
D: Tiendalli, Chico, Williams, Davies
M: Ki, Britton
M: Dyer, Michu, Routledge
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra
M: Carrick, Cleverley
Valencia, Rooney, Young
F: Van Persie
Prediction: With Swansea’s home matches enjoying a high number of goals this season and the same being true for Manchester United’s games on their travels, it should be an entertaining encounter in South Wales.
Swansea could well provide a real challenge but, as they have done so often this season, Unites should just prevail.
Swansea 2-3 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Premier League match kicks-off at 8.30 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.