Man United start afresh as Premier League begins
By Tom Williams ,AFP
August 16, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
LONDON -- The Louis van Gaal era will begin in earnest for Manchester United on Saturday when they host Swansea City in the first match of the 2014-15 Premier League season.
The 63-year-old Dutchman has impressed in his first four weeks at the United helm, overseeing five wins and a draw in pre-season, but it is in the league that his achievements will be judged.
Swansea were one of eight teams who came to Old Trafford and won last season, creating a sense of vulnerability that Van Gaal has been hired to banish for good.
Coincidentally, United also met Swansea on the opening day of the 2013-14 campaign, with the then-defending champions winning 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium in David Moyes's first league game as manager.
The result was to prove a red herring, as United finished the season down in seventh place, but midfielder Tom Cleverley says that it will be important to set the right tone for the forthcoming campaign.
"We can't wait to get going against Swansea and look to put right the wrongs from last year," he told the United website.
"We started against Swansea last year, but away. This time it's at home and I'm sure the fans will be the same as us: raring to go. It'll be the manager's first competitive game and I'm sure it'll be a special atmosphere."
Wayne Rooney will lead United out for the first time since being named captain after Tuesday's 2-1 friendly win over Valencia.
United will have to make do without 27 million pounds (US$45 million) close-season signing Luke Shaw, however, after the 19-year-old left-back was ruled out due to a hamstring strain.
Another team buoyed by a positive pre-season period are Arsenal, who launch their assault on the league title at home to Crystal Palace.
Having ended a nine-year trophy drought by winning last season's FA Cup, Arsene Wenger's side gave an eye-catching demonstration of their title credentials by outclassing league champions Manchester City 3-0 in last weekend's Community Shield.