So here it is: the search for glory starts all over again, a mere 91 days since Manchester United concluded the 2012/13 Premier League season with a bizarre 5-5 draw against West Bromwich Albion. The summer’s frustrations, both on and off the field, are now forgotten and for the time being at a least, there are points to gain. New manager, new era, new challenges; 38 games to go.
It could hardly start in more challenging fashion for David Moyes, with United’s Saturday afternoon trip to Swansea City followed in quick succession by matches against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. The run, spread over the next six weeks, won’t break United’s new man, but they could certainly make him.
The focus for now is on Saturday’s game, with United facing a difficult trip to Wales without several senior squad members. Wayne Rooney, so much at the centre of attention this summer, is unlikely to feature despite playing for more than an hour in England’s friendly during the week. How Moyes must be sick of the name already, even if the new man has pushed hard to retain the 27-year-old at Old Trafford.
But it is also a proud day for Moyes. The Scot may not be everybody’s first choice to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, but he is a manager who will enjoy universal support from the Untied faithful nonetheless. Moyes as an underwhelming choice has oft been aired, but to paraphrase, he’s United’s underwhelming manager now. One of the family, to be protected.
Yet, there is little doubt about the task ahead, not only in following Sir Alex’ substantial legacy, but continuing the perpetual hunt for silverware. The smart money is on a transitional season.
“To be called Manchester United manager is probably the biggest thrill,” said the 50-year-old.
“It’s a real privilege to be in that position and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to make it as good as I can and work hard to make sure the club continues to have success.
“It might take me 18 months to two years to get things changed around. I don’t know how long Sir Alex thought it took him to get it the way that he wanted. At a club like Manchester United I will get the opportunity to do that.
“We know where we are going and how we work. We don’t work in a way that every time there is a defeat there is a panic on. Obviously I am aware of the job and the job is to continue the success of the club.”
Swansea City v Manchester UnitedWith City having finally made a sensible managerial appointment, and José Mourinho back at Chelsea, there will surely be a more sustained challenge to United’s supremacy this season. Moyes may not yet feel the weight of expectation, but he surely will in time.
No better time to start the season in positive fashion then; not only for the new manager’s state-of-mind, but to ensure that United doesn’t begin the new campaign as champions under pressure.
Swansea, meanwhile, welcome Ivorian William Bony to Michael Laudrup’s impressive side. The Welsh outfit finished last season in ninth, building on Brendan Rodgers’ progressive tactics to consolidate in the Premier League. Bony will add considerable firepower to compliment the outstanding Michu who has remained in Wales despite a flurry of offers from elsewhere.
Jonathan de Guzman is absent with a head injury sustained up on international duty, although new signing Jonjo Shelvey should start and Pablo Hernandez is available.
And there is little doubt in the United squad about the challenge ahead, with the Swans having lost just five at home last season, and Laudrup’s side already a little match sharper than most having featured in two Europa League qualifiers this summer.
“The Swansea game has been in our minds for a while,” said defender Chris Smalling.
“We know that when we step out onto the pitch we’re seen as the best but we know we need to show that we are, and we’re all determined to do that.
“We’ve got some big fixtures at the start of the season but if we can put on some really good performances then it’s going to give us a big boost if we can pick up a few points and possibly set us apart from our rivals. I don’t think there is any better time to play those big games to be honest and in one sense it’s good to get them out of the way.”
Meanwhile, Moyes is without defenders Rafael da Silva and Jonny Evans, together with Javier Hernández and Ashley Young. Michael Carrick is still suffering from the eye infection that kept the Geordie out of England’s game in mid-week, although he should start in Wales.
The absentees leave Moyes potentially short in midfield, although Ryan Giggs is a sure starter in his homeland. Nani is still not fully fit, while new recruit Wilfried Zaha may start on the bench.
“It’s a very tough away fixture,” said Moyes
“Michael Laudrup has done a really good job there and strengthened the team a lot this summer. I would expect Swansea to have another season as good as last year and they’ve already had a couple of European games as well which gives them the feeling they are a little more match-ready.
“We know it will be a hard game but we feel we’re getting ready as well and getting everybody back fit. Because of that, hopefully we’ll go there and give ourselves a good chance of winning.”
Victory would proffer just the boost to confidence Moyes is looking for. The supporters too, Rant suspects.
Swansea City v Manchester United, Premier League, Liberty Stadium, 5.30pm 17 August 2013
Swansea (4-4-1-1): Vorm; Taylor, Chico, Williams, Rangel; Britton, Canas, Dyer, Shelvey; Michu; Bony. Subs from: Tremmel, Zabret, Amat, Shelvey, Hernández, Lamah, Monk, Lita, Moore, Cañas, Situ, Pozuelo, Obeng, Richards, Davies, Donnelly
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Valencia, Welbeck, Giggs; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Buttner, F da Silva, Smalling, Anderson, Zaha, Henríquez, Rooney, Januzaj, Lingard, Varela, Macheda, Wootton, Bébé, Keane
Swansea 2 – United 3 – Draw 1
Referee: Phil Dowd
Assistants: G Beswick, D Bryan
Fourth Official: L Mason