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Manchester United v Swansea City
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A contest between two teams with uncertain futures as Manchester United host Swansea City at Old Trafford to kick-off 2016.
VAN GAAL STILL IN THE HOT SEAT DESPITE MOUNTING PRESSURE FROM FANS
One point out of a possible six over Christmas without scoring a single goal, but Manchester United executives are still placing their trust in beleaguered Dutch coach Louis van Gaal. With rumours circulating daily about his future, the former national team coach of the Netherlands still has the keys to the Old Trafford kingdom in his pocket, but for how much longer?? Despite his confession that he has changed his training methods after pressure from some of the senior players,Monday’s 0-0 home draw against Chelsea did not offer much encouragement for the sceptics and with the shadow of Jose Mourinho looming large in the background, it seems the single-minded Dutchman is only one catastrophic defeat from being replaced at the helm.
SWANSEA IN GOOD FORM UNDER CARETAKER CURTIS
Since the departure of Garry Monk in mid-December, Swansea City has remained in the hands of caretaker coach and former playing legend Alan Curtis – The clubs only defeat so far being a narrow 2-1 loss away to Manchester City. The Swans are on a run of three consecutive games unbeaten having not conceded a goal in any of them. Curtis has been doing some diligent work on the training field despite being told that he will almost certainly be replaced when the right man comes along. Despite their upturn in form, the club from South Wales remains perilously close to the relegation zone and the best football betting sites currently quote them at *4.50 to lose their top-flight status at the end of the current campaign.
With a lack of available players at his disposal, it’s unlikely that van Gaal will tinker too much with his formation for the visit of Swansea City. The one change that may happen is the return of Dutch international Memphis Depay at the expense of Juan Mata, who was disappointing on Monday evening. Anders Herrera is unlikely to make way after his man of the match showing against the Blues. Wayne Rooney priced on the betting exchanges at *5.50 to open the scoring on Saturday, looks set to lead the attack once again. Jesse Lingard, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw are all still absent due to injury.
Curtis may also stick with the side that got a hard fought point at Crystal Palace on Monday, which means a 4-3-3 formation with England international Jonjo Shelvey being partnered in midfield by Jack Cork and 20-year-old Matt Grimes. French striker Bafetembi Gomis should be preferred to André Ayewn in attack. Portuguese striker Éder and French defender Franck Tabanou will miss the trip through injury.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Young; Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin; Martial, Herrera, Depay; Rooney
Swansea City (4-3-3) Fabiański; Taylor, Williams, Jordi Amat, Naughton; Grimes, Cork, Shelvey; Barrow, Gomis, Emnes
HEAD TO HEAD
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a surprising 2-1 win for the visitors to record their first ever league win at Old Trafford. Prior to that, the Red Devils had won the previous five meetings between the two at the Theatre of Dreams, although the Welshmen did win by the same scoreline in January 2014 in the third round of the FA Cup.
Manchester United 1.50 Draw 4.20 Swansea City 6.50
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)