Manchester United will be determined to begin the New Year in much better style than they ended the last, but in order to do so they will have to end their three-game losing streak against Swansea City.
They did not manage to come away with victory and indeed failed to find the back of the net, but all the same Man Utd’s performance on Monday was much more pleasing than those which had come before, and more importantly it appealed to the great majority of the supporters inside Old Trafford. It is certainly something to build on, but the wins must now start coming again as they now sit five points in arrears of the Champions League qualification places.
Wayne Rooney was unsurprisingly restored to the starting XI against Chelsea and he emerged as one of the game’s top performers, bringing his teammates into the game with some fine hold-up play. Juan Mata was the man who profited most and he always looked capable of making something happen as the Red Devils ditched their patient way of playing and returned to the more direct and expansive style which the club has been renowned for over the last two decades, taking a few more risks along the way.
If that can be maintained, the Swansea defence will be in for a tough afternoon but come into it having kept clean sheets in each of the last three games to help them escape the bottom three and steady the ship somewhat after a troubling last quarter of 2015. Despite a perceived lack of depth in the squad they were able to keep out high-flying Crystal Palace last time out after caretaker-boss Alan Curtis made some six changes to his team, including starts for inexperienced duo Modou Barrow and Matt Grimes.
Just a matter of weeks ago the Swans went to Manchester City and came away with much of the credit in spite of falling to a very harsh defeat, and the team generally does well up against the Premier League’s leading clubs. Having overcome United so often in recent times, they surely arrive at this one confident that they can pick up another good result and add to the already intense pressure that is on home boss Louis van Gaal. As for Curtis, he must be wondering how long he will be tasked with handling first-team affairs at Swansea.
A quartet of players are out for Man Utd, namely Marcos Rojo, Jesse Lingard, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw.
Swansea defender Federico Fernandez will be assessed before kick-off, as will Wayne Routledge. Striker Eder remains absent, however.