Manchester United will be looking to end a winless run of four matches in the Premier League with a trip to Wales to play Swansea. Yet to win a match since thrashing Leicester City 4-1 at Old Trafford, the Red Devils haven’t scored a Premier League goal since the 1-1 draw against Stoke, four matches ago, and conceded four against Chelsea, which makes for an incredibly poor recent record. Outside the Premier League, Mourinho’s men have 5 wins and 2 losses in seven matches, which is not quite enough to even the tides, as United needs to progress in the Europa League to ensure there is a path to the Champions League next season.
Swansea, meanwhile, are winless under new American manager Bob Bradley in three matches, and after sacking Francesco Guidolin, things do not seem right for the Premier League’s only Welsh club. After ten matches, the Swans have just five points in the Premier League and sit 19th in the table, only in front of David Moyes’ winless Sunderland, which is a record that makes United’s problems seem as if they aren’t relevant. That being said, they showed with a draw against Chelsea earlier in the season that they have some great individual players, and if those players are to perform, we all know how bad Manchester United’s luck has been in the past few days.
Lukasz Fabianski, Goalkeeper, Swansea City
While Leroy Fer is a massive shout for a player who could threaten United this weekend, with four goals in the first ten Premier League games, the title had to go to Lukasz Fabianski, who will be key to Swansea’s chances of winning. In United’s last two matches against opposition lower than them in the Premier League, United had a combined 61 shots, scoring just one goal, and much of that is due to the incredible performance levels of the opposition goalkeepers, Lee Grant and Tom Heaton. Arguably the two best individual goalkeeping displays of the season were needed to deny United of all six points, but because of those two players, United walked out with just two.
Fabianski is an incredibly talented goalkeeper, who made world class saves when called upon in the Champions League for Arsenal. He kept the score down as Arsenal struggled against Bayern Munich, which is a feat of its own. Since moving to Swansea, though, he has been able to demonstrate his quality week-in, week-out, playing every single minute of the Premier League season for the Swans. Once again, it could be a case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Goalkeeper, and if Swansea is to even draw, Goalkeeper will have to come out on top.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Attacking Midfielder, Swansea City
Seeing a player as incredible as Gylfi Sigurdsson playing for Swansea is what makes the Premier League worth watching. Growing up in Iceland, Sigurdsson was one of many talents from the Nordic Island who rose through their growing youth systems, but now he is the best of the pack, wearing his heart on his sleeve for club and country. Watching him at the Euros and in the Premier League this season, it is a wonder to think he didn’t make it at Tottenham.
Sigurdsson’s magical right-foot can do everything; crossing, striking the ball, passing with incredible accuracy and fashioning out opportunities for others. He has the hard-work and tenacity in his game to play in central midfield for his nation, as he did for Iceland so admirably. Even with Swansea’s misfiring form he still has two goals and two assists in the first 10 matches, though a better indication of his ability is last season, when he finished with 11 goals and two assists (goals and assists aren’t even his strong suit). If Swansea is to do anything at all on the pitch, you can be sure that Sigurdsson will be involved in it.
Michael Carrick, Defensive Midfielder, Manchester United
Ander Herrera’s cruel ban and Paul Pogba’s tragic injury, along with Michael Carrick’s omission from United’s trip to Turkey, mean that the veteran Englishman is set to start for United this Sunday in midfield. He will be tasked with playing the creative, adventurous and defensive midfield role that Herrera has played so admirably all season, and he will try to use his passing range to aid that game. Carrick is a key player for United, even at 35, which is shown by the fact the Red Devils have won every game in which he started.
A player who has experienced an incredible career at United, it would be surprised to see Carrick hang up his boots now, considering the form he is in. Arguably the best outfield player of his age in the Premier League (barring, perhaps, Zlatan Ibrahimovic), Carrick still has so much to offer United, and he will be looking to carry United over Swansea this weekend, as he wears the armband out into the Liberty Stadium.
Matteo Darmian, Right-Back, Manchester United
Called into action after Antonio Valencia’s arm injury, Matteo Darmian performed admirably in United’s Europa League victory over Fenerbahce before being picked to start against Burnley ahead of Timothy Fosu-Mensah. A second consecutive good performance had fans placing quite the belief in him, but he reversed it all in the reverse fixture against Robin van Persie’s Fenerbahce side in Turkey, in a match where United lost 2-1 (although van Persie didn’t play).
I, for one, would like to see Darmian at left-back with Timothy Fosu-Mensah on the right, because he suits the system requirements for a left-back far more than he does on the right. Luke Shaw shouldn’t be playing too much yet, and Darmian has many similarities to Cesar Azpilicueta, who was Mourinho’s go-to left-back at Chelsea. Darmian’s energy and surprising passing range could be more valuable coming onto his right-foot from the left side, while Fosu-Mensah would be more likely to emulate Valencia. It will be interesting to see how Mourinho utilizes his fullbacks, given that all are in dodgy form.