It’s hard to imagine a defending champion entering a new season with so many doubting their chances, but a new manager and weak summer transfer window hurt appearances it seems, as Manchester United head into their league debut against Swansea feeling confident, but maybe without enough just cause.
Swansea City retained Michael Laudrup and Michu, their two biggest goals for the summer, after a spending debut season for the Danish manager in the Premier League, and an even bigger impact made by the Spanish forward. On top of that Swansea splashed some cash in the transfer market, especially on Wilfried Bony from Vitesse, signing the Ivorian striker for £12.2 million. Without selling any key player this time around, it seems the first Welsh team in the Premier League expects to be praised for more than just style this season.
The midfield seems upgraded with the arrival of José Alberto Cañas on a free transfer from Real Betis, as Swansea hope that Laudrup’s expertise in the Spanish La Liga will help them showcase another cheap addition that will make some big contributions and quickly.
The only missing player will be Jonathan de Guzman, who injured his head during his time with the Dutch national side. However, with Canas and Shelvey joining the team, he’s absence shouldn’t be too critical.
For Manchester United, Rafael is still suspended from his late season red card against Chelsea, while Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Michael Carrick, Nani and Ashley Young are all doubtful for the match, although United have never been too forthcoming with the actual medical condition of their players going into match.
In the end, United’s success, at least from the way it looks right now, will depend on Robin van Persie and his scoring touch, once again. Shinji Kagawa should be a more important piece of the puzzle this time around, but with so many questions regarding new players and the doubt surrounding the current ones with the problems of their defending and midfield, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them continue to stutter on the opening weekend.
Prediction – Last season, a stronger United side struggled on their visit to Swansea, ending the match in a 1-1 draw. This time, United might have the more consistent squad going into the new season, but without the influence of Alex Ferguson on the sidelines. It seems like a second straight season of United not winning on their opening match.