While Jose Mourinho has made several surprise selections already this season, it will be a major surprise if he follows through on his word to play himself against Swansea this weekend. With a growing injury list perhaps being enhanced by the increased number of games that the Red Devils have had to play recently, United will need to be wary of falling to a Swansea side who can take advantage of these levels of fatigue. They do however have the incentive of being able to draw level on points with Liverpool who don’t play until Monday evening and they will surely have a point to prove after spending so long on Thursday evening in a parked bus.
Swansea are starting to look like a cooked goose with their win against Stoke last week being their first in seven matches and a result which saw them maintain the deficit between themselves and Hull rather than to close the gap. Paul Clement caused a big reaction from his players just after his arrival in January, more-so with regards to the performance levels than simply the results he recorded but it is now results that are the only important factor for him. This weekend he must take his team to Old Trafford with a win being much needed but not something that their hosts have been very forthcoming on handing out over the last year.
LAST TIME OUT
Manchester City 0 – 0 MANCHESTER UNITED
It was a determined and resolute performance that saw them leave the field with only ten men but a precious point from the Manchester derby. While it may not have been the most enjoyable of evenings for the red half of Manchester to sit through, it is the result which will stand out the clearest from the history books and this seems to be a philosophy which Mourinho fully embraced before his field took to the pitch. City started the stronger and Sergio Aguero shook the post in only the 9th minute but United held on in a backs-to-the-wall performance which showed they had clearly done their homework against their opponents.
While United’s attacking players made some measure of intent in the first half, the majority of the game was played in the own half of the pitch after the interval. Marouane Fellaini then allowed his frustration to boil over at the close of the game when he head-butted Aguero to receive a straight red card in the 84th minute but luckily for him and United, it did little to allow City into the game and they finished with a point apiece.
SWANSEA CITY 2 – 0 Stoke City
Swansea compounded Stoke’s misery with a win that ended their winless run and renewed hope that they can rise up the table. Swansea were clearly inspired prior to kick-off as they made a flying start against Stoke and it paid off with the classic one-two of Gylfi Sigurdsson feeding Fernando Llorente from a corner in the 10th minute to allow the Icelandic forward to power home a header from an unmarked position in the box.
While Swansea continued to dominate proceedings for the remainder of the first half, they seemed to move up an extra gear in the second although some of this could fairly be attributed to an abysmal performance from the Potters. Stoke then received a penalty against the run of play in the 69th but Marko Arnautovic ballooned his effort and Swansea raced down the pitch a minute later for Tom Carroll to double the Swans lead in the 70thminute from fully 30 yards and with it, he put an end to Stoke’s chances of a recovery.
Manchester United Lineup
United will have Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Phil Jones (toe), Chris Smalling (knock), Marcus Rojo (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Paul Pogba (muscle) and Juan Mata (groin) all ruled out of contention this weekend with Marouane Fellaini also missing out due to his three-game suspension.
Swansea City Lineup
Angel Rangel (foot), Wayne Routledge (hernia), and Nathan Dyer (achilles) will all remain unavailable, while Leroy Fer (dead leg), Jack Cork (ankle) and Martin Olsson (hamstring) remain doubts for the Swans.
A mature head
Michael Carrick is reaching the end of his current contract at United and while his future is clouded in uncertainty by the fact that he claims no desire to play for any other English side, Carrick has proved his worth to United once again of late. The Geordie midfielder was at the heart of a resolute performance against City on Thursday evening with his ability to make space and find a pass proving a useful outlet to interrupt the mountain of pressure that was building on their defence. With an injury list longer than his arm, Mourinho is likely to again turn to Carrick to steer United against a Swansea side that also likes to play the ball along the floor.
Darmian vs Narsingh
Matteo Darmian has almost gone unnoticed at United this season as much of the focus has been on why Luke Shaw has not been given more opportunities in the team. The main reason for this has been the form of the Italian left-back who fell out of favour with Louis Van Gaal, having made a series of steady, workman-like performances which fit well into the Mourinho mould of a reliable player. This weekend he is likely to face a challenge from Luciano Narsingh with Wayne Routledge facing a spell on the sidelines. The promising youngster will prove a real threat to United however, and looks to have a bright future in the game after impressing in the few chances he’s had in his slow introduction into the team.
The perils of travelling
Swansea and Hull have both built their hopes of avoiding relegation on the foundations of a strong home record while their away form is left to dwindle. Like their fellow rivals in the fight to escape relegation, Swansea are yet to pick up any points away from home in the last couple of months and this has somewhat stunted their chances of leaping out of the bottom three in the table. While a trip to Old Trafford used to be a journey tinged with fear and trepidation, United have been relying upon their away form this season which could provide the Swans with a glimmer of hope in taking something back to Wales with them after the match has ended.
PREDICTION: Manchester United 2 – 0 Swansea City
While United appear to have their own set of problems going into this match, Swansea too are beset by a bigger problem, namely their lack of confidence. While they ran out comfortable winners against Stoke, the proposition of facing United will be a different test for Swansea who have players within their team who are more than capable of lifting them to victory. There problem though is that the majority of their players have looked to be consumed with fear during the last few weeks as they’ve crept closer towards the Premier League’s trapdoor and I imagine that United will play much like they did against Burnley to record a win with a similar scoreline.