Swansea City-Manchester United Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)

Saturday afternoon's Premier League opener will mark the dawn of a new era for the most successful club in the history of English football.

Louis van Gaal will take charge of Manchester United when they welcome Swansea City to Old Trafford for the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday, and the hugely experienced Dutch coach will be hoping that he can right the wrongs of last season's seventh-place finish and turn the Red Devils into title challengers once more.

Step one on that road to recovery appears likely to be a change of formation, with Van Gaal opting for a back-three throughout pre-season - emulating the tactics used by so many teams in this summer's World Cup. The main advantage of the change appears to be that it allows all of Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and new club captain Wayne Rooney to play in their favoured roles, but there will be pressure on summer signing Ander Herrera to control midfield, while doubts remain over the quality of a defence that lost stalwarts Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic in the summer.

Step two will be a change of style from last season's overly 'English' approach under David Moyes.

"It's very much pass and move, always asking for the ball," said midfielder Tom Cleverley about the United's new style of play. "The manager is so clear that there can be no questions asked from our point of view. We know exactly what he wants and are confident that if we do what he wants on the pitch, we'll win."

The fixture list has certainly been kind to Man Utd's new boss, with their first game against one of last season's top six not coming until early October. However, a squad that lacks strength in depth has also been hit by injury problems in the build-up to the campaign, with summer signing Luke Shaw the latest first-teamer to be ruled out. Shaw won't feature until mid-September due to a hamstring injury, while Michael Carrick (ankle), Rafael (groin) are also missing for the opening weeks. Danny Welbeck (knee), Antonio Valencia and Jonny Evans will face late fitness tests ahead of Saturday's curtain-raiser.

Swansea fans can look forward to plenty more side-partings and gilets on the touchline this season after Garry Monk's position as manager of the Swans was made permanent during the summer break. However, everything Monk lacks in sartorial elegance he looks likely to make up for in attacking approach - if his summer signings are anything to go by. The acquisition of Bafetimbi Gomis from Lyon means that Swansea now have one of the most physically imposing attacks in the league, while fellow summer additions Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jefferson Montero will add variety to a creative midfield unit that was beginning to become quite predictable towards the end of last season.

The Swans have never won a league game at Old Trafford, but did win at the ground in the FA Cup last season, and Monk is hopeful that his team can repeat that cup triumph and spoil van Gaal's first taste of the Premier League.

"All of the focus is on them and that suits us fine," Monk said. "Whenever you go there you know it is going to be tough because of the quality they have… but we have had a very good week's training and we'll be positive.

"Everyone is beatable in this league. On any given day, if things drop right and you're on the top of your game, we can beat the big clubs and we've proved that already."

These teams also met on the opening day of last season, with van Persie and Welbeck both scoring twice in a 4-1 United win that failed to warn of the disappointment to come.