The first match of the season is always very important and although one might argue that it is not how you start, but rather how you finish, the truth is that for Manchester United, winning the opening match of the hard and rocky campaign ahead is of the utmost importance, especially after last term’s catastrophic performance.
For the match against Swansea, the experienced Dutch head coach, Louis Van Gaal, will almost certainly not change much of what we saw from Manchester United during the pre-season clashes and despite having plenty of important players injured, he will surely present the same 3-5-2 approach he has been using so far.
GK – David De Gea – The young, but experienced Spanish goalkeeper will be a key element in the Red Devils’ team this season. All the changes in the defensive line Van Gaal is currently implementing will put a lot of pressure on De Gea, who will definitely need to improve his communication skills inside the box, since this term he will have to “guide” three centre backs instead of the usual two.
CB – Phil Jones – The 22-year old centre back will work as the ball playing defender this season, since among all the others with whom he shares that position, he is surely the one with the best passing skills.
CB – Chris Smalling – This might be the year during which Smalling will cement his place at the centre of United’s defence line. His strong aerial presence and his stamina, together with his bravery, will certainly open the doors of the starting line-up for him, even if another centre back arrives at the club during the Summer transfer window.
CB – Jonny Evans – The Northern Irish footballer is probably the weakest link at United’s defence line at this moment, but considering that Van Gaal does not have any further options for the next match, Evans will probably complete the team’s defence trio.
WBR – Ashley Young – At the age of 29, the English international Ashley Young is probably facing the most demanding task of his already long footballer’s career. It is surely not easy for a player that is used to play as a wide midfielder – or even as winger with almost no defensive tasks – to embrace the challenge of playing in a position that forces him to do both things, defence and attack. The injury and inconsistent performances of Antonio Valencia opened the doors of the team to Young and, due to his fairly good displays so far, he may, in fact, have convinced Van Gaal that he is the right man for the job.
WBL – Tyler Blackett – With Luke Shaw sidelined due to injury, Blackett will probably be the man Van Gaal will chose to act as a wing back on the left side of the defence. The young talented English footballer usually plays in the centre of the defence and he is definitely a good alternative to Jonny Evans, although his ability to play as a left back will almost certainly give him the opportunity to take Luke Shaw’s place on the match against the Swans.
CM – DLP – Ander Herrera – The Spanish midfielder has only arrived to Old Trafford this season, but he already seems to be part of the “furniture”. His successful partnership with Fletcher at the centre of the pitch will certainly offer United’s fans plenty of reasons to smile.
CM – BWM – Darren Fletcher – The Scottish midfielder seems to be back for good this time and he even was fairly impressive during the pre-season matches. His presence in the centre of pitch is vital for balancing an attack-driven team such as Van Gaal’s United.
AP – Juan Mata – The arrival of the Dutch manager marked the return of Juan Mata to the position (advanced playmaker) where his performances are definitely more consistent. He is the main responsible for creating goal chances and for thinking United’s game and all the attacking process.
DLF – Wayne Rooney – United’s charismatic number 10 will certainly have a very important role this season. Besides being the team’s captain, he will be the voice of command and, acting as a deep lying forward, he will be the perfect complement to Juan Mata in the team’s attacking movements.
AF – Javier Hernández – The versatile Mexican forward was not even a part of Van Gaal’s plans earlier on, but the injury of Van Persie (who is still far from being 100% fit) and the recent injury of Danny Welbeck opened the doors of the team to Chicharito Hernández and he will probably be the Dutchman’s choice for the forward line against Swansea next Saturday.