Manchester United – Swansea (FA Cup)
For David Moyes this third FA Cup fixture will be a well-received diversion from New Year’s Day home defeat. But it will only work if Manchester United can put up a proper performance before their home crowd. In a season that so far reckons of disaster breaking the 10 year drought wouldn’t save it, but would certainly be a good start. As for the Welsh side, the pressure is entirely on the Red Devils side. They have nothing to lose and a lot to win. Isn’t that why it’s called the Theatre of Dreams?
Manchester United dropped to 7th in the Premier League table following the 1-2 loss at Old Trafford to Sherwood’s merry men. It wasn’t pretty. United’s back four struggled the entire match. In the first goal conceded Smalling’s feet never left the ground, which against a giant like Adebayor is defensive suicide.
Wayne Rooney desperately requires time off to recover from that annoying groin problem. But with all the heat around the team Moyes can’t afford to bench him. Against the Spurs, playing through injury, he was asked to be all over the pitch, usually way down the back, where he is neither particularly comfortable or effective. We’ve seen it last season, United’s dependence on Rooney and Van Persie to decide the games. Rooney health shouldn’t be risked, if for nothing else to avoid repeating the Van Persie situation. He came in too soon and the result was a few more weeks on the sidelines.
The influence of young Adnan Januzaj is undeniable. His youthfulness causes him to a few mistakes and he’s also building a reputation as a diver – it was his third booking for it this season. Not entirely fair. His drive and his crosses are amazing and full of intention, he brings pace and movement to United’s game. He’s 18 years old for crying out loud, sure he needs guidance and has a lot to learn. As for the diving, well, the only weapon most defenders have against a talented fast youngster is to intimidate him physically. If he just stood there waiting for the blows he would be beaten to a pulp by now. So far they haven’t tamed him, he goes head-to-head with anyone.
The last time Manchester United won the FA Cup it was 2004, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher were in that team.
The long list of casualties include Van Persie, Fallaini, Nani and now Ashley Young. Rafael and Phil Jones are doubtful.
Probable line-up: Lindegaard – Rafael, Ferdinand, Smalling, Buttner – Fletcher, Giggs – Valencia, Kagawa, Januzaj – Hernández.
Michael Laudrup’s squad sits 13th in the table, with 21 points. Ever since they’ve beaten Newcastle at home, in early December, they are yet to notch another victory. It has been six matches so far. The Dane have them playing attracting football but the squad has no depth and the Christmas schedule has been heavy on the roster. Wednesday they’ve host Manchester City and the outcome was symptomatic of the Swans season performances. They’ve lost 2-3 to the most devastating attack force of the Premier League but they gave them a run for their money. Wilfred Bony’s return to goals – yes, plural – had to be a welcome news to Laudrup and a boost to the team. If only they weren’t so very tired.
Pablo Hernández limped out of the field and a hamstring injury will probably rule him out of this Cup tie. Roland Lamah or Alejandro Pozuelo are likely to replace him. On the sidelines remain Michu, Dyer, Vorm and Monk.
Probable line-up: Tremmel – Tiendalli, Amat, Chico Flores, Taylor – Guzmán, Britton – Pozuelo, Shelvey, Lamah – Álvaro.
The Swans must be heading into Old Trafford thinking it’s no longer the fortress it once was. Manchester United have lost 3 of their last 5 home fixtures and their treatment room is packed. Still, they are the defending Champions and they need to prove Wednesday’s set back was just that and that the announced renaissance of the Red Devils is to be continued, in a stadium or screen near you.