Focus: Can Manchester United's impressive press thwart Swansea's central midfield?
The Manchester United resurgence may be slower than many had hoped, but signs of stringent organisation and a highly disciplined shape have emerged in the opening few weeks. The visit of Garry Monk’s Swansea, a cautious and pragmatic team that closely resemble Louis van Gaal levels of structural integrity, should be an intriguing match-up decided in central midfield.
United have begun to swarm and press with van Gaal-esque regularity, shifting as a compact unit that looks to tackle high up the pitch and dominate territorially; their 57.5% possession and 86% pass accuracy are testament to the Dutchman’s philosophy of controlling aesthetics.
Pressing from the front could be a dangerous tactic against the superb duo of Jack Cork and Jonjo Shelvey. Cork has continued the quietly elegant form (5 interceptions per match, 91% pass accuracy) that saw him build the foundations of Swansea’a attacks last season, whilst Shelvey is developing into an outstanding deep-lying playmaker (69 passes per match, 4.3 key passes - see our recent Jonjo Shelvey profile here).
It is essential that Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin do not over-commit when pressing, and certainly the head-to-head between these four players will be fascinating. United’s new duo are also specialists in both cutting off passing lines and building attacks with quick tempo passing.
A game of slim margins is to be expected. The victor is likely to be the side whose central midfield duo perform with the greater energy, determination, and consistency; it is, for both van Gaal and Monk, an important test of their respective capabilities to improve on last season.