Swansea to play with freedom during Fergie's send-off

Posted by Max Hicks

Michu celebrates after scoring for Swansea against NorwichGettyImagesMichu celebrates after scoring for Swansea against Norwich

Through a quirk of the fixture list and the timing of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement announcement, Swansea City have the privilege of being the last team to face Ferguson's Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The game already has the makings of an exhibition rather than cagey chess match. Manchester United were confirmed as Premier League champions what now feels like a year ago, whilst Swansea secured Premier League status for a third season even before that.

The result can't make any difference for United, and little difference for Swansea, although United will clearly want to give their figurehead the best possible home send-off, and the Swans would still very much like to get something out of the game. What's more, the entire football world will be watching.

The expectation then is that both teams will play with some degree of freedom, with Ferguson likely to start an attacking first XI, although Laudrup will have to compromise to cover for injuries. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm is likely to miss out after sustaining a head injury in the mid-week fixture versus Wigan, whilst Chico Flores, Ki Sung-Yueng and Michu will face late fitness tests. More worrying is that Angel Rangel will also miss out; the right back was excellent against Wigan where he played as a defensive winger.

Laudrup might have liked Rangel to reprise that role on Sunday to help contain United's strength on the wings; instead, the Dane will probably be forced into playing an attacking formation himself, with the 'three wingers' line-up seemingly all the injury list will allow, unless Kemy Agustien is chosen to start in deep midfield to allow Jonathan de Guzman into the second level of the Swans attack. Agustien did start in the previous meeting between these sides, and is the better defensive player compared with de Guzman.

The game will also mark Paul Scholes' second (and probably final) retirement. The gravity of the occasion favours the hosts, although United fans might be thankful that their opponents ought at least to ensure an attractive game. In the earlier season fixture, the Swans managed a credible 1-1 draw, though they'll need all three points (and a West Brom loss to Norwich) to move up in the table.

A draw would be a result for the Swans but a United win seems the most likely outcome, particularly if the majority of those Swans players facing late fitness tests can't play a part in the proceedings. The Swans have generally acquitted themselves well against United since joining the Premier League, and this season took their first points off the bigger side, echoing Michael Laudrup's tendency to step up for the big games.

It remains to be seen which Swans players will take the up the gauntlet thrown by the magnitude of this particular occasion, but Pablo Hernandez can be a big game player, and Michu - if he features - will want to atone for a recent slump in form.

It's a huge occasion, and a match where the points won or lost have little significance for either side. United fans, Swans fans and neutrals would probably just settle for an entertaining game, and Swansea certainly know how to put on a show.

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