Monday, 14 November 2011

Preview. Swansea City v Man Utd 19 /11/ 11

Well here we go then.

On Saturday, Swansea City host Manchester Utd.
It feels good to write that.

Probably, it's the game most Swans fans and commentators generally will feel that really gives Swansea City the "arrivability" test.

The first time the Premier League Champions have visited the Liberty ; the first occasion when no one will argue that it's a MONSTER Home fixture.

No disrespect to Wigan, Sunderland, West Brom, Stoke or Bolton, and I mean no irony there, Manchester United really are of a somewhat different order. A different level some would say.

After all, they have indeed won the Premier League in 12 out of the 19 seasons since it's inception, along with a host of other successes.
These include Champions League Cup victories, FA and Carling Cup trophies too, and a host of lesser pots.

In some seasons they occasionally "fail". Ha, I feel ashamed I typed that.

Because it's only applicable if you take failure to mean winning nothing other than Sir Alex Ferguson's dislike of "lesser" trophies like the Carling Cup or the beanfeast that is the modern Charity Shield. Meanwhile, they play in the largest Home arena in the Division in front of sell-out crowds and take in pre-season "Tours" to Malaysia and China to open up the Asian Market to their Brand.

Plus there's a question of style - say what you like about our current fashion, and I do, because it's both deserved and wonderful - but they've been THERE too. In style terms I mean.
They may still be a little short of Barcelona's masterful template, but I guess you have to say by not much.

So you can see I'm a little excited, but I'm not overawed. And neither will be OUR team, Swansea City.

This analysis will hope to tease out why that's the case.

From our own perspective, we can sometimes be guilty of what Sid Lowe, the fantastic Brit commentator who writes from his base in Spain quoted from Alfredo RelaƱo, editor of AS, as saying about England v Spain recently,.......Link
"Sometimes we play so well with the ball we forget about the other goal. It was like when Diego Maradona said that Spain would be world champions if the goals were at the side of the pitch not the ends."

Sound familiar?

I'll come back to us, later. Firstly, let's have a look at Man Utd in detail.

David de Gea, the Spanish U21 keeper signed from Atletico Madrid for £20m approx, seems not to have SAF's total trust, as of yet. Witness his spirited defence of his young keeper on several occasions, and his use of Anders Lindegaard in selected fixtures. Tested by hopeful long-shots regularly in the Prem after his early season blunders, the young Spaniard has since delivered, but remains a less than physically imposing target, Movemberish facial hair included.

At full back, Patrice Evra, French International and a top performer, is a lock at LB.

On the right, however, since Gary Neville's retirement to the Sky Studios best-pundit Lounge, Rafael and Fabio de Silva, the Brazilian twins, compete with the future England CB's Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, both of whom were probably signed to replace Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Both Jones and Smalling were again big money British buys.

The first choice pairing (Vidic and Rio) could claim to be the Prem's best CB duo of the last 6 years, but age/fitness have reduced Rio to the " he fit/unfit? Again?" category and the Serb (who often puts his head where others would fear to tread) more prone to the "Fernando ripped me another one" kind of afternoon that he got in a 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford to Liverpool some seasons ago.

Cover is also provided by Johnny Evans, who continues to confirm his "loaned to Sunderland, once" form. Theatre of Dreams regulars reckon he's not "fit for purpose". Harsh, I know, in judgement of a PL player, but when you set your sights as high as Utd do, there's perhaps a kernel of truth in the criticism.

It's in Midfield though that the comparison with past SAF teams is crucial to their overall effectiveness.
Having lost Paul Scholes' weekly masterclasses, and with Ryan Giggs nowadays a less frequent contributor, the selection options are both intriguing and open to dispute. Nowadays, Christiano Ronaldo light, post his Madrid bound departure, the owner of the most efficient hairdryer in football is forced to perm some from many.

So check this- these are the Midfield options....

Valencia, Park, Anderson, Carrick, Nani, Young, Cleverley, Fletcher, Gibson, Pogba, Giggs.

Not much to choose from there then, eh?

Now however much I might try to suggest that it's not as effective as it used to be, there can be no arguing that it's a talented, international, and tempting assortment. And one that's been generally up to the mark.
Still, I can't help but feel that compared to the dream line up of some years back - Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs - it does lack a little something.

Like true star quality.
It sparkles, yes, but a couple of years ago you might have said you were Blinded by the Light.

Especially when you think, as I do, that it's been at it's most effective when Tom Cleverley, the young Englishman, has been one of the few this season that's made it sing.
And, that in recent weeks, SAF has seen fit to play Wayne Rooney, a World Class No 10 in my eyes, in a supporting role to fill it's capacity.

Still, what do I know. Opinions,it's just about opinions.

Formation wise, SAF has progressed from an out and out 4-4-2. to a more Champions League friendly 4-3-2-1, as he's confirmed that the midfield battle is often where it's won.

And then, up front, they are left with the aforementioned Rooney, the "Little Pea" Hernandez/Chicharito, Danny Wellbeck, Dmitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and the lesser used Federico Macheda and Mama Biram Diouf.

Poor them, left with that lot, eh?

I think you'd have to say that's strong.

England's man-child, Rooney, remains one of the Premier League's outstanding footballers - able to influence many a game by sheer force of will and talent. Javier Hernandez is as prolific as Suarez at Liverpool, and a deal less flighty. Berbatov veers from the sublime to the ridiculous and Wellbeck is forcing Fabio Capello no less to widen HIS circle of opportunity.

Wow. I'm as exhausted thinking about it as I guess most opponents must be.

United's effectiveness is often highlighted by their ability to "win ugly", that concept that however they appear to be playing - well, ordinarily or poorly - they can come up with a win. Plus, they seem to have the almost magic ability to score in "Fergie Time" late in the game, just when you thought it's safe to go in the water. Cue "Jaws" music.

As Swans fans you know how much we love those late game flourishes where the opposition slings the kitchen sink, often aerially, at us. I'd dearly love to be in that situation Saturday, if only because it'll probably mean that we're in front.
And MAY stay there. After all, Burnley did.

This brings us to what I think their line-up might be. I'm going to be greedy and hope that SAF sees us as another game where he might tinker and put out a line-up that's not his strongest possible, but is still one he thinks can win.

So, we might get Lindegaard, Fabio, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Anderson, Park, Berbatov, Owen/Macheda .

That's bloody strong. It might well win/draw. I hope not.

I'd hate to see De Gea, Smalling/Jones,Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Cleverley, Fletcher, Giggs, Young, Rooney.

I think the my second guess is stronger than my first.
On Saturday we will get to see.

As for us Swans, I suspect it'll be no change from Liverpool, apart from a straight swap of Scott Sinclair for Wayne Routledge which would be harsh on Wayne particularly as he played so well at Liverpool.

Steven Caulker maybe on the bench?

We will hope that Ashley Williams and Joe Allen return from the excellent Wales win versus Norway in good shape and continuing their fine form. That Neil Taylor is over his ankle-twang , and Michel Vorm continues his wonderful starts, attesting to being the buy of the season.

Can Nathan Dyer, our very own buzz-fly torment Evra ? Can Scott Sinclair and Danny Graham continue to score Premiership goals against some of the League's finest.

Who knows.

Whatever, I am confident that Brendan Rodgers' team will be the one that he thinks can win.

Even against Manchester United.

Let's be honest - these really are very good days that make us puff out our chests with pride.
We are ESPN's feature match in the 5.20pm Saturday evening slot.

At the Liberty. Roll on. Can't wait.

# As I write this I read that Michael Owen is sidelined for 6 weeks due to some thigh muscle-gah.

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