Swansea v Manchester United preview
By Simon Duffy
In the previous 20 Premier League season, the holiday period is traditionally the time that Sir Alex Ferguson starts revving the Manchester United engine. The Red Devils are famed for their New Year surges and with neighbors, Manchester City, their closest rivals in hot pursuit, Ferguson will demand nothing less than three points and another opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the English Premier League when they visit Swansea on Sunday.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side have generally swept all before them so far this term bar the occasional hiccup and head into the festive season with a six-point buffer ahead of second-placed City.
United's 3-2 win over their neighbors at Etihad Stadium earlier this month created the gap, and they followed up that triumph with a 3-1 thumping of Sunderland on Saturday, courtesy of goals from Robin van Persie, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney.
Their upcoming hosts at Liberty Stadium have impressed so far in season 2012/13, and after finishing last season in 11th position, they are one higher than that after 17 games of this campaign.
Along the way the Welsh club have accounted for Arsenal, West Brom, Newcastle, Liverpool and West Ham – with the Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle wins impressively coming away from home.
In their most recent outing, Michael Laudrup's side were beaten 1-0 by Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Swansea will be relieved that leading goalscorer Michu should be available for selection after the Spaniard came off second-best when contesting an aerial ball against Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Michu has been perhaps the signing of the season as his goals return for money paid is staggering. The Spaniard has that indescribable knack of ghosting in the box unannounced that is reminiscent of the great Martin Peters.
Laudrup also is looking forward to the return of goalkeeper Michael Vorm from a groin injury however on the minus side right-back Angel Rangel is still out with an ankle ligament problem.
Pablo Hernandez is yet to resume from a thigh injury and Neil Taylor is a long-term casualty after breaking his ankle against Sunderland in September.
Ferguson also has some worries on the fitness front, with a plague of hamstring problems descending on Old Trafford in recent weeks.
Michael Carrick played only a half against Sunderland on Saturday, while Rafael missed the match with hamstring tightness of his own.
Jonny Evans, Anderson and Nani are also battling hamstring issues, while Shinji Kagawa is nursing a knee complaint.
Ferguson, however, will be buoyed by the return of skipper Nemanja Vidic, who played 25 minutes in the win over Sunderland after overcoming a long-term knee problem. Vidic is so vital to the United backline and his partnership with Rio Ferdinand is without a doubt one of the best pairings in the history of the club.
The formbook screams for a United victory however the Swans are tough to beat on their own patch. I can't see anything but a United win though and more celebratory red wine for the old mater, Sir Alex Ferguson.