Manchester United will be looking to build on the promise they showed in their goalless draw with Chelsea last weekend when they welcome Swansea City to Old Trafford on Saturday. Louis van Gaal is still almost certainly on borrowed time, but Ed Woodward's reluctance to pull the trigger means the Dutchman will be given yet another opportunity at ending an increasingly embarrassing winless run. United have not tasted success since November, in a streak spanning eight matches.
Meanwhile, Swansea City are currently managerless, with chairman Huw Jenkins still trying to identify a replacement for Garry Monk. The young Englishman was sacked early in December after winning just one in 11, and interim boss Alan Curtis is expected to be in the dugout once again on Saturday. He oversaw the club's first win in two months on Boxing Day, but the Welsh outfit still teeter only two points above the relegation zone. There's no doubt that this is a massive opportunity for United to break their duck.
United will still be without their three long-term injured players, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo; while Jesse Lingard is also expected to join them on the sidelines.
That's a longer injury list than Swansea have to contend with: the Jacks' only certain absentees are Franck Tabanou and Eder; with Wayne Routledge and Federico Fernández both in doubt. None of those players are key first-teamers, meaning the Swans will still be able to field something close to a full-strength starting lineup even if all four are ruled out.
Swansea are a better team than their league position suggests, and their recent run of poor form could well be a case study in how big an effect confidence and motivation influence results. On paper, they're a very solid mid-table outfit, with Ashley Williams a fine centre-back, Jonjo Shelvey an irritatingly effective playmaking midfielder and the attacking midfield band of Jefferson Montero, Gylfi Sigurðsson and André Ayew one of the most technically proficient in the entire division.
United need to be wary of the pace and skill of Swansea's wide men, who should be licking their lips at going up against one of Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian. But as uncharacteristically good in one-on-ones as United's full-backs will have to be, United could also do with stopping the wingers receiving the ball, in part by marking the creative fulcrum that is Sigurðsson: he's sure to relish any pockets of space he can find in between United's midfield and attack.
Striker Bafétimbi Gomis started the season in great form, though he's since dropped off. Nevertheless, United's centre-backs will have to be on guard: he's a big, powerful striker capable of causing problems.
In attack, United could look to target the Swansea full-backs. There are defensive question marks over both Kyle Naughton and Neil Taylor, and they could be exposed by pace and skill. It's only a pity the slow and not-particularly-skilful Juan Mata will almost certainly be once again stuck out on the flank.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Ashley Young, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian; Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata; Wayne Rooney.
Swansea (4-2-3-1): Łukasz Fabiański; Neil Taylor, Ashley Williams, Jordi Amat, Kyle Naughton; Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Cork; Jefferson Montero, Gylfi Sigurðsson, André Ayew; Bafétimbi Gomis.