MANCHESTER UNITED laid down an impressive marker on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, thrashing West Ham 4-0 at Old Trafford.
A brace from new-boy Romelu Lukaku was added to by well-taken goals from Paul Pogba and substitute Anthony Martial to put United top of the pile on the opening weekend.
But Jose Mourinho will be expecting a stiffer test for his new-look side as the Red Devils head to South Wales to face Swansea City on Saturday (12.30pm) in the first game broadcast on Sky this weekend.
The Swans opened their season with a goalless draw at Southampton on Saturday but have beaten United in two of the last three meetings at the Liberty Stadium so an a second win for United is far from a forgone conclusion.
Our friends at Football Whispers provide the ultimate preview of Saturday’s Premier League weekend opener.
Key battle: Romelu Lukaku v Alfie Mawson
Swans defender Mawson has had to grow up fast since making his Premier League debut in a goalless draw against Watford in October.
But the 23-year-old, who joined from Championship side Barnsley, has spent his career doing that and was playing in the Conference three years ago.
He stepped up impressively from League Two Wycombe to help the Tykes to promotion and complete a phenomenal rise through the EFL to the top-flight when he joined the Swans for £5m a year ago.
Saturday’s encounter will be another test of his credentials as he comes face-to-face with £75m man Lukaku. The bruising Belgian showed precisely why Mourinho swallowed his pride to bring him to Old Trafford this summer with a perfect debut against West Ham.
After bagging 25 for Everton last season, at a rate of one every 131 minutes, the pressure will be on Lukaku to replace the goals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and fire United to a title challenge.
Potential match winners
Lukaku is the obvious threat for Swansea and the 24-year-old will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a defence which shipped 70 goals last season – the second-most in the Premier League.
The former Chelsea hitman had an impressive record against sides who finished between 10th and 20th last term, scoring 15 times. If he can repeat that this term for a United side who struggled to break down smaller teams, a title challenge could be on.
Further threat will come from Marcus Rashford, who was impressive against West Ham cutting in off the left-hand side.
The England international got an assist, completed 50 per cent of his dribbles, 79 per cent of his passes and tried four shots, hitting the woodwork once.
Substitute Martial, reportedly an Inter Milan transfer target earlier in the summer, made a point coming off the bench, scoring with a well-taken effort and supplying an assist.
Swansea’s main threat will be summer signing Tammy Abraham. The Chelsea youngster scored 26 times on loan at Championship side Bristol City last term.
The England Under-21 forward had been a Newcastle transfer target but Swans boss Clement persuaded the 19-year-old to move to the Liberty Stadium instead. Two of his three efforts at Southampton were blocked.
Despite experimenting with a back three in pre-season, Mourinho reverted to type for United’s Premier League opener and will field a 4-2-3-1 system once more for the trip to South Wales.
That will mean Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and Rashford in support of Lukaku with fellow summer signing Nemanja Matic partnering Paul Pogba at the base of midfield.
Swansea set out in a 4-3-3 system at St Mary’s with Wayne Routledge and Jordan Ayew either side of Abraham.
Everton transfer target Gylfi Sigurdsson has been left out as he prepares for a future away from Swansea, meaning the midfield three were comprised of Tom Carroll, Leroy Fer and Leon Britton.
The Swans are unlikely to call upon wantaway star Sigurdsson meaning Clement has few options to change his side.
Striker Fernando Llorente is returning from a broken arm sustained in the summer while Ki Sung-yeung (knee) and Nathan Dyer (Achilles) are also sidelined.
Mourinho elected to start with Phil Jones alongside Eric Bailly on Sunday, leaving £31m signing Victor Lindelof out altogether. Daley Blind was also preferred at left-back in place of Luke Shaw.
Manchester United have lost two of their last three trips to the Liberty Stadium, both 2-1 under Louis van Gaal.
However, last term the Red Devils were 3-1 winners in South Wales with goals from Ibrahimovic (2) and Pogba.
Swansea midfielder Britton boasted a 96% pass completion rate in Saturday’s draw with Southampton, better than any player in the United side which thumped West Ham. Antonio Valencia (96%) was closest.
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