Manchester United travel down to South Wales this weekend for a Sunday Premier League encounter with Swansea City. The two sides have yet to meet this season but they did so twice in the past campaign. During this same fixture at Liberty Stadium last year in November, a careless giveaway by Angel Rangel eventually led to a Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) goal -- the lone score in the game. During the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, the Red Devils secured a 2-0 victory over the Swans after first-half strike from Paul Scholes and Ashley Young.
Form Guide: United enter the weekend top of the table and with a six-point advantage on title-contending rival Manchester City. Thus far, Sir Alex Ferguson's side has earned 42 points from 17 league matches. The Red Devils have emerged victorious from their past five league matches with the most recent one being a comfortable 3-1 defeat of Sunderland last weekend.
Team News: Rafael, Anderson, Nani, and Shinji Kagawa all have been ruled out for the match. (Full Team News Report)
Form Guide: Swansea currently sit 10th in the table with 23 points from 17 matches. Michael Laudrup's side have lost their past two league fixtures to Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City. Prior to those defeats though, the Swans had gone six league matches unbeaten.
Team News: Goalkeeper Michel Vorm is expected to return from injury for Sunday's match. Neil Taylor is definitely out. Pablo Hernandez and Angel Rangel are supposed to have late fitness tests.
United: Squad rotation is coming as the Red Devils will be involved in five matches in an upcoming fourteen day stretch. Against Swansea, David de Gea is expected in goal but as always, Anders Lindegaard could pop up in goal. In central defense, two of Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, and Jonny Evans will be chosen. At right-back, Phil Jones is probable to deputise at right-back for Rafael while Patrice Evra will be at left-back.
In midfield, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley are the expected duo but any of Scholes, Darren Fletcher, and Ryan Giggs are possible. Out wide, Antonio Valencia and Young are anticipated to be the wingers but Giggs or Danny Welbeck could be in contention.Up front, expect to see Robin van Persie with Wayne Rooney in support.
Swansea: As previously mentioned, Vorm is likely to be in goal but his back-up Gerhard Tremmel is still possible. In the back four, Ashley Williams and Chico will be the central-defenders while Ben Davies will be the left-back. If Rangel fails his late fitness test, expect Dwight Tiandalli to deputise at right-back.
In Swansea's double-pivot, Leon Britton and Ki Sung-yeung are expected but Jonathan de Guzman is possible too. Michu is possible in the central-attacking-midfield role but if he's pushed up higher into a No.9 role, then de Guzman could play as the most advanced central-midfielder. Danny Graham is the other player in contention for a No.9 role and if that were the case, Michu would be in behind. Out wide, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer are anticipated.
* What approach will the Swans take?: Under former manager Brendan Rodgers, Swansea rarely veered away from their possession-based and pressing approach (Scouting Report: Swansea City). It didn't matter if they were up against a Blackburn Rovers or a Manchester United -- they weren't going to change their style. Under current manager Michael Laudrup, the Swans have been willing to be a bit more pragmatic at times. Against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur this season, the Dane instructed his side to defend deeper and they only closed down when the ball reached the half-way line. Which approach will Swansea take against United? The Welsh side, like many teams this season, may be willing to have a full go at the Red Devils on Sunday with the backing of the vociferous Liberty Stadium.
* Tempo: If Swansea do stand off, they'll look to slow the tempo down, just as they did at White Hart Lane last weekend versus Spurs. United have a tendency to fall into a slow tempo trap, especially in the early stages of games. They often don't pick it up until a goal has been conceded and that's when urgency then sets in. If Cleverley starts, his mobility and willingness to circulate the ball quickly could be key to igniting United. Tempo often slows, as well, when Rooney is having an off game -- specifically, when his touch and decision-making slows down attacking moves. Even if Swansea sit deep, the midfielders and Rooney need to quickly switch the point of attack and try to draw the home side out of their shape by using their outlets on the flanks. If United can't open Swansea up vertically, then they can use their wide players to horizontally stretch the attacking space.
* Rooney needs to drop into midfield when out of possession: If a side takes a reactive approach or is organized in their pressing high up the pitch when possession is immediately lost, then the No.10 or secondary striker in a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 shape doesn't necessarily need to drop into midfield in order to help out with the defending. United, though, will almost certainly take a proactive approach, despite Swansea's passing game being so good, and they don't press with the same intensity as a Barcelona or a Borussia Dortmund. Therefore, against the Swan's three central-midfielders, Rooney will need need to drop deep when United are out of possession so that they aren't overrun in the center of the park. Fortunately for the Red Devils, the Englishman has been willing to do so in recent months.
KO: 1:30pm GMT, 8:30am EST | Liberty Stadium
Live TV: Sky Sports (U.K.), FOX Soccer (U.S.)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Odd: Swansea City 9/2, Draw 3/1, Manchester United 4/7