Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea Date & Time: Sunday, 23rd December, 13:30 Regardless of what happens this Sunday, Manchester United will be top of the Premier League on Christmas Day for the eighth time in Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure as manager. Even so, with the festive spirit high, Swansea won't be an easy conquest on home turf, especially with the Swans fighting to keep their place in the top half of the table for the New Year. United beat their Welsh opponents 2-0 last May at Old Trafford, thanks to goals from Ashley Young and Paul Scholes, but still the title slipped from their grasp. This season the Red Devils will want to collect as many points as they can to avoid the same final-day heartbreak.
Team NewsSwansea are set to welcome back Dutch goalkeeper Michel Vorm, after an eight-week absence with a groin injury. If he isn't fit enough to return then understudy Gerhard Tremmel is ready for the challenge, he told the club website. "Ive played a lot of big games against top teams in the last few weeks. Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea those experiences will help me," he said. "I am not afraid of Manchester United. Of course, it is a big story to play against them, but they just have 11 players. They have good players, but so have the other teams." Pablo Hernandez is also ready to return to the squad following a thigh problem that ruled him out of last weekend's 0-1 defeat to Spurs but it is looking highly unlikely that Angel Rangel will be available due to a calf injury. In-form striker Michu collided heavily with Hugo Lloris on Sunday but has confirmed online that he is available this weekend. I was in pain I had a headache until Tuesday but it was no-ones fault," the Spaniard admitted. "I am a player who wants to win the ball and if that means getting hurt in the process then thats fine. If the opportunity arises again this Sunday against Manchester United, I will go through it again I wont be pulling out of any challenge like that because I want to score for my team." Manchester United boss Ferguson could restore captain Nemanja Vidic to the starting XI for the first time since September, after the Serbian played a cameo role in the 3-1 win over Sunderland. He has promised his squad that they will be rotated heavily during the festive period, meaning that Michael Carrick could make an instant return to the squad after being brought off at half time against Sunderland. Shinji Kagawa will miss out again and could be joined in the stands by fullback Rafael Da Silva, who has failed to shake off a hamstring injury. Nani and Anderson are also on the long-term injury list (both also hamstring problems) and won't be fit until January.
Key BattlesAshley Williams vs Wayne Rooney Swans captain Williams is used to galloping forward from deep, but with Wayne Rooney occupying so much space in front of the back four it might make him adopt a more defensive approach. This could potentially slow Swansea's fluid passing game and give United the chance to control the tempo from the off. Jonathan De Guzman vs Michael Carrick Both central midfielders have adopted very different roles for their respective sides this season. While De Guzman has been prolific as a playmaker from behind Michu, Carrick has found his strengths lie as an anchor in the middle of the pitch. De Guzman's strength and pace will be difficult for Carrick, a traditionally slower player who uses his vision and passing to outdo opponents, to deal with. Antonio Valencia vs Ben Davies At the tender age of 19, Davies faces one of his biggest tests this weekend. Valencia gets at his opponents, using raw pace to burst down the right wing and there aren't many fullbacks capable of stopping him. Davies has soared up the ranks at Swansea to earn his place at left-back and this will be a big learning experience for him. He'll need to know when to track Valencia's movement and when to break forward to relieve pressure on his own midfield, an extremely important part of playing against United.
Quote, UnquoteSwansea defender Angel Rangel told swanseacity.net: "We are not naive anymore, particularly against the big clubs at home." "What we have to do is be positive and brave and go for the game. If you go and give too much respect to the opponent, you are going to get beaten. It happened at Manchester City in the first game of last season, we weren't ourselves. We have to go out and give everything this weekend. We know the crowd is going to be behind us 100 per cent." City boss Michael Laudrup added: "Its important to look at the bigger picture. We are coming up to the halfway point of the season and whatever happens between now and then, we will have 23 points on the board." "That is three more than at the same stage last season, and we can then look back at what we have achieved and see what targets we can set for the remainder of the season. But the next six or seven weeks are crucial for us. If we suffer a couple of defeats then its not a problem because we have so many more games coming up. Of course we would like to win on Sunday, but if we do then there will be a lot of focus on the club again. My focus now is on the next four games, but we have to take one at a time." Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told manutd.com via MUTV: "It won't be the same team in any of these games. There will be changes each game." "You've seen the results have had and the progress they have made as a football club over the last years. The important thing for me is that they try to play and have the courage to play their football. At this time of year, all the games are challenges and they come thick and fast now. Utilising the squad is important, as is picking the right team, but hopefully we can get through it and be in the same position as we are now."
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