Louis van Gaal is eager for a first win against his “ghost team” as Manchester United look to halt a three-game losing sequence against Swansea City in the Premier League.
United ended a run of four straight defeats in all competitions with a 0-0 draw against Chelsea on Monday – a match which prompted their under-fire manager to vow not to resign, given the spirited display of his players.
The 20-time champions begin the new year five points adrift of the top four and will face a team who have won four of their last five meetings, including two of their previous three visits to Old Trafford.
Despite their poor record, Van Gaal insists there is no magic wand to be waved in order to end their Swansea curse, but has called on his side to improve upon their past displays.
He said on Thursday: “Swansea have been what I call my ghost team, meaning we are looking to start this new year with what I have been told you say in England by breaking the duck.
“It’s always the same. You make a game plan to beat your opponent. We have lost three times to Swansea but then you have to analyse why you have lost.
“It’s always like that. And then you continue with the same vicious circle of working. It’s not any magic. It’s looking to what has happened and what you can improve as a team but also as an individual player.”
Swansea managed just one win in the 11 games after their victory over United in August, prompting the sacking of manager Garry Monk, and one subsequent victory in four under caretaker boss Alan Curtis has left them two points above the bottom three.
But with no defeats and no goals conceded since their 2-1 loss to Manchester City on December 12, Curtis wants his players to “be bold” at Old Trafford.
“We’ve done exceptionally well against them in the last three games, but we know it will be a tough game and we’ll have to be at our best again,” he said.
“Some of their results have been a little indifferent but they were excellent against Chelsea on Monday and the game could have swung their way on another day. We’ve just got to go there and perform, be bold and play our football.”
United, seeking a first win in nine matches, are likely to be without Jesse Lingard (hamstring) for the game, while Luke Shaw (leg), Antonio Valencia (ankle) and Maros Rojo (shoulder) are definitely out.
Van Gaal is consequently unlikely to make many changes from the Chelsea draw, whereas Swansea could welcome back Angel Rangel, Leon Britton, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Ki Sung-yueng and Andre Ayew to the starting line-up after making eight changes for the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace.
Curtis has confirmed that Wayne Routledge (knock) should return to the squad, while Federico Fernandez (heel) could be fit to travel. Eder (ankle) is a doubt, while Franck Tabanou is unlikely to be involved despite recovering from a thigh problem.
Key Opta Stats:
– Manchester United have won three of their last four Premier League home games against Swansea City, though they did lose the most recent clash.
– Bafetimbi Gomis has scored the winning goal in each of the last two Premier League games against United.
– United have found the back of the net in all 12 of their home league encounters with the Swansea (25 in total), winning nine (D2 L1).
– Wayne Rooney has been directly involved in three goals in his last four Premier League games against Swansea (one goal, two assists).
– Swansea have won four of the last five meetings with United in all competitions, all by a 2-1 scoreline, including two of their last three visits to Old Trafford.
– Swansea have won just one of their last 10 Premier League away games, losing six of these (D3).
– Five of United’s last eight games at Old Trafford in all competitions have ended goalless.
– United’s last two Premier League defeats from leading positions have both come against Swansea City (1-2 in Feb 2015 and 1-2 in Aug 2015).