Swansea City host league leaders Manchester United on Sunday (1.30pm GMT, live on Sky Sports) hoping to achieve a positive result in their final home match of 2012.
The Swans are 10th in the Premier League table with 23 points from six wins, five draws and six defeats in their 17 matches to date, but come into Sunday’s match on the back of two consecutive defeats.
The second of those came away to Tottenham last weekend. Swansea were solid and kept possession well to a point, but offered little incision and eventually succumbed to defeat courtesy of a solitary Jan Vertonghen strike a quarter of an hour from time.
Michael Laudrup employed similar tactics to those he implemented in the 2-0 win away to Tottenham’s North London rivals Arsenal two weeks earlier, defending deep, making things difficult and looking to counter quickly whenever possible.
Laudrup has already displayed a greater willingness to change tactics for specific opponents than his predecessor Brendan Rodgers and has bedded in quickly to Premier League football since taking on the Swansea job in June.
Swansea lost Joe Allen, Glyfi Sigurdsson and Scott Sinclair, three of the key components of their impressive first Premier League season, during the off season, but Laudrup has bought wisely and there has been little perceptible drop in performance. In fact, if they continue to accumulate points at their current rate they are on course to finish four points better than last season.
Michu has been the standout signing, having scoring 12 times since his summer move from Rayo Vallecano, but Jonathan de Guzman has also impressed with two goals, four assists and some very tidy work in the centre of midfield. Sung-Yong Ki is gaining in confidence and authority, while Chico Flores provides a rugged presence in the centre of defence.
Swansea have trips to Reading and Fulham to follow after the visit of United. Provided they can pick up at least three points from these fixtures, Laudrup is likely to be very happy with his first half season in English football.
His opposite number Sir Alex Ferguson does, of course, have far greater experience of the English game. He is soon to enter his 27th year at the helm of Manchester United, yet is showing little sign of growing weary and has again taken the club to the top of the table, some six points clear of local rivals City ahead of this weekend’s fixtures.
United are yet to draw a match this season and are currently on 42 points from 14 wins and three defeats in their 17 matches to date. They are in the midst of a run of five consecutive victories.
The Red Devils have scored ten more goals than any other side in the division, with the 19 scored by Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney alone enough to equal or better the totals of seven of the league’s clubs. But it is not just the strikers who are finding the back of the net; United have had 15 different scorers so far this season, the most of any club in the Premier League.
The club’s goal scoring prowess has somewhat masked their defensive failings. Despite scoring a large number of goals, nine of their victories have been by a margin of just one, with five of those ending 3-2. They have kept just three clean sheets and have conceded 24 times, nine more than second placed City.
Domestically, Ferguson will not be unduly worried by his side’s defensive frailties as long as they can continue to deliver going forwards, but their tendency to concede sloppy goals could come back to haunt them in the Champions League, especially with Real Madrid awaiting in the round of 16.
The return from injury of stout Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic, who played the final 20-odd minutes of last weekend’s 3-1 victory at home to Sunderland, will be welcome news for Ferguson, especially ahead of a hectic Christmas schedule during which some rotation is likely to be necessary.
Swansea v Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
Swansea have performed well so far this season, defeating the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle away from the Liberty Stadium. But they are likely to find themselves overrun by a determined United side who without being particularly balanced tactically have shown enough will to win and attacking incision to sit comfortably atop the Premier League table going into the festive period.
- Back Man Utd to win @ best odds of 7/10 with BetVictor, William Hill or Pinnacle.
- United have kept in a clean sheet in just one of their nine away matches to date, while Swansea have only twice failed to score at the Liberty Stadium this season. Therefore, we suggest backing ‘both teams to score’ @ 8/13 with either Ladbrokes or Stan James.