The footballing world will watch on keenly this Saturday lunchtime to see whether Manchester United’s emphatic start to their Premier League campaign last Sunday was indeed the start of something special or merely a bad day at the office for West Ham United.
Jose Mourinho’s men laid down the early marker of this season against Slaven Bilic’s side, rampaging to a 4-0 win with goals from Romelu Lukaku (2), Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba. They were scintillating, keeping the Old Trafford crowd firmly on the edge of their seats with a mesmerising exhibition of fast, purposeful and entertaining football, but it will mean nothing if they fail to reproduce the same style against Paul Clement’s Swansea City on Saturday.
The clash with the Welsh side presents a different threat to the one posed by West Ham. Bilic, for some reason, thought pitting Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble against Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba in midfield would work, but the pair were duly overrun by the brilliant latter pair. But Clement will not make the same mistake: losing Gylfi Siggurdson to Everton is a considerable blow, but the former Real Madrid assistant displayed against Southampton last weekend a capacity for making life awkward for opponents in midfield, with Leon Britton, Tommy Carroll and Leroy Fer working in close conjunction to preclude the hosts from gaining much momentum.
Needless to say, they will implement a similar strategy for keeping United’s midfield – effervescent on Sunday – as quiet as possible. This is why Ander Herrera’s introduction to the starting XI feels necessary: the Spaniard’s tenacity, as we saw last season, can unsettle any midfield and ultimately bend the game in United’s favour, handing Pogba and Matic a license to orchestrate proceedings. So with that in mind, here is our predicted XI for the clash with Swansea.