Man Utd still the team to beat for Swans

Posted by Max Hicks

Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesMichael Vorm's fearless goaltending, including this collision with Wayne Rooney, kept Swansea close in last season's fixtures

The blue half of Manchester might have won the title last season (just), but no team has been as unwaveringly dominant in British football over the past 15 years as Manchester United, who visit Swansea City Sunday. Like it or not, Sir Alex's men are still the gold standard against which all others shall be measured, and one of just three sides to beat Swansea both home and away last season.

Although both of last season's fixtures against United ended in defeat for the Swans, they were both a lot closer than many might have expected. In the Liberty leg, United managed a slim 1-0 margin courtesy of a rare defensive error before then-Swan Scott Sinclair missed a sitter. Sinclair has since moved to United's City rivals, where he might garner more favour from United fans if he can continue to squander chances against them - if he ever plays, that is.

Regardless, last season's narrow home loss saw a very credible performance for a Swans side whose Premier League existence was just 11 games old at the time. The return trip to Old Trafford saw another strong performance in a 2-0 defeat, which means the Swans have yet to score against United in the Premier League.

With newcomer Michu perpetually on fire for the Swans this season, that might be about to change. Of course, the man Michu is sharing the Premier League's top-scorer limelight with is none other than United's own newcomer Robin van Persie, so logic suggests we should see some goals.

United may have been enjoying their investment in former Gunner van Persie, but at the other end their defence has been notably weaker this season. The imminent return of Nemanja Vidic should help. The Swans might also see the return of one of their key players, goalkeeper Michel Vorm. Backup Gerhard Tremmel has done an excellent job in Vorm's stead (the Norwich loss notwithstanding), but Vorm was a contender for best signing of the 2011-12 season for a reason. If both teams' ailing defensive stalwarts can return for this game, as seems likely (Vidic played 20 minutes as a late sub last week), then Michu and van Persie might have their work cut out after all.

Both squads are riddled with injury problems at present. United will be without the likes of Nani, Shinji Kagawa and possibly Michael Carrick, while the Swans will hope to see right back Angel Rangel and winger Pablo back in the starting XI. Both face late fitness tests, which ought to at least keep Sir Alex guessing before the lineups are officially announced.

It would be a significant boon for the Swans should Pablo be fit. Having now firmly found his feet in the Premier League since a summer move from La Liga's Valenica, the winger has been looking sharper in every game; a high-calibre thoroughbred who can ignite the Swans attack and looks worth much more than his bizarrely exact £5.55 million transfer fee.

Last season's Swans gave a good account against the might of United; this season's Swans are better. The Premier League's ultimate litmus test awaits.

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