Manchester United-Swansea City Preview
The past few seasons, Manchester United haven't exactly performed like Manchester United, but if the extremely early returns on the 2017-18 campaign are any indication, the Red Devils may be back in full force.
United look to build on a stellar opening performance when they travel to the Liberty Stadium for a Saturday lunch-time kickoff against Swansea City.
Manager Jose Mourinho is a shot in the arm for any club that hires him. He hasn't lasted more than four years at any of his previous stops during his career, but the mercurial Portuguese boss seems to have developed a pattern. The first year-plus at a club is used to sculpt the team to his liking, the second year is about title contention or winning a trophy and after the win he seems to quickly lose his dressing room, and thus moves on to another club.
Mourinho's first year at Old Trafford saw plenty of ups and downs on the way to a sixth-place finish, but they came flying out of the gate in their opening fixture this term, laying a 4-0 drubbing on West Ham United at the Theatre of Dreams.
New star man Romelu Lukaku, who made the move from Everton for £75 million, netted a brace in his United debut. Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba scored late to ensure the hosts took all three points in emphatic fashion.
While one excellent result is not cause for heaping title-chasing pressure on a club, even one as large as United, Martial later emphasised his club's desire to win silverware this season.
"As a squad, we haven't really talked about specific aims for the season too much so far, but the goal is to win as many titles as possible," Martial said. "That is what we tried to do last year and it's what we are going to try to do this year. Personally, my main goal is to win titles and medals, of course. I also want to play the most. I have always wanted to play since I was young and so now I've got to do my best to win the title. I do set myself targets for appearances and goals but I keep that to myself."
Swansea City manager Paul Clement enters his first full season with the club, and got off to a decent start last week, earning a point in a scoreless draw with Southampton at St. Mary's. The Swans were on the back foot for most of the match and defended resolutely on their way to earning a point despite failing to register a shot on target.
Clement's men face United without one of their best players in midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who made the move to Everton for a club-record £45 million earlier this week. Despite losing the Icelandic international, Clement has emphasised that his club can be better without Sigurdsson, provided they make the right signings before the summer window slams shut on Aug, 31.
"It's a big challenge to replace Gylfi Sigurdsson, there's no question about that," Clement said. "But what we hope to be able to do is bring in two or three players who will strengthen our squad in various positions. It's not just going to be one for one.
"My message to the supporters would be that the club wants to move forward. We want to improve our playing squad and our style and we want to win more games. We believe that with the funds we have available as a result of Gylfi's transfer, we can strengthen our squad and become a better team."
Indeed, replacing the former Tottenham man, who netted 27 goals in 106 appearances for the Swans, will be a tall task and it will be up to the club to spend that money wisely.
Former Swans Wilfried Bony and Joe Allen have been linked with a return to south Wales, while West Bromwich Albion midfielder Chris Brunt is also believed to be on Clement's wish list.
Manchester United have won two of their last three Premier League meetings with Swansea City, this after losing the previous three all by a 2-1 score.
Swansea have never kept a clean sheet against United in 12 Premier League meeting, but are unbeaten in their last six matches going back to last season (4-2-0) - their longest unbeaten Premier League run since January 2013.
Lukaku is looking to become the fifth player to score in his first two Premier League appearances for United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Federico Macheda, Louis Saha and Martial also accomplished the feat.
Updated August 17, 2017