Preview: Manchester United vs. Swansea City

Sports Mole previews Manchester United's opening Premier League game of the season as the Louis van Gaal era begins with Swansea City at Old Trafford.

Louis van Gaal's Manchester United have the honour of opening up the new Premier League season when they host Swansea City on Saturday lunchtime.

Following a campaign that United would like to scratch from their illustrious record books, the Dutchman's appointment as manager has brought renewed optimism to the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford.

While their work in the transfer market is far from done, signings such as Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw will hope to contribute to a title challenge which was non-existent in their seventh-place, worst in 24 years, finish of last season.

Shaw has been ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury, but creative midfielder Herrera, who joined from Athletic Bilbao for £28m, is expected to make his Red Devils debut this weekend.

Wayne Rooney was confirmed as the club's new captain on Tuesday, succeeding Nemanja Vidic, who left on a free transfer at the end of last season, and will provide United's main goal threat in the absence of Robin van Persie.

Van Persie is being given extra time to recuperate having played a major role in helping Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals, and joins Michael Carrick in being unavailable for Van Gaal's first competitive game in charge.

There are also injury doubts over Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck, but Jonny Evans should be fit to lead a three-man defence which is without both Vidic and his long-term partner Rio Ferdinand for the first time in 12 years.

Ashley Young will probably start at left-wing-back in Van Gaal's 3-5-2 formation, having impressed during United's unbeaten pre-season, with Juan Mata being utilised in his preferred central role behind Rooney and Javier Hernandez.

Marouane Fellaini, Nani and Shinji Kagawa will likely have to settle for places on the bench as speculation over their respective futures continues.

Five wins from 14 top-flight games secured Garry Monk the permanent Swansea job in May. At 34 years old, the former central defender is the youngest boss in the division and has overseen a host of outgoings during the transfer window.

Many of the club's Spanish contingent, including Chico Flores and 18-goal forward from 2012-13, Michu, have departed along with first-team regulars such as Ben Davies, Michel Vorm and Jonathan de Guzman.

These losses have been cushioned by the return of Gylfi Sigurdsson, who starred during a loan spell at the Liberty Stadium in 2012, and the retention of Wilfried Bony, who has been linked with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

The Ivorian striker will lead the Welsh outfit's attack in Manchester, with free-agent recruit Bafetimbi Gomis offering a good option on the bench.

His fellow summer arrivals Jefferson Montero and Lukasz Fabianksi are expected to be on the field when the whistle is blown to kick off the new campaign, as may Ki Sung-yueng, who is back in contention after completing his loan at Sunderland. Leon Britton and Marvin Emnes are sidelined, however.

Swansea lost 4-1 to United on the opening day of last season, but have beaten them once in six Premier League attempts.

Possible starting lineups

Man United: De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Jones; Rafael, Fletcher, Herrera, Young; Mata; Rooney, Hernandez

Swansea: Fabianski; Rangel, Bartley, Williams, Taylor; Shelvey, Ki; Routledge, Sigurdsson, Montero; Bony

Sports Mole says: 2-1

Who will win Saturday's match between Man United and Swansea at Old Trafford?

Man United
Man United
Manchester United's newly-appointed Dutch manager Louis van Gaal addresses a press conference at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, on July 17, 2014
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