Preview: Swansea City vs. Manchester United

Leave a comment
  • First league game in 1,046 games that Ferguson isn’t in charge at United
  • Swansea aiming to beat United for first-time in PL
  • Red Devils only won once at Swansea since 1932

The first batch of Premier League season previews are on the way, boy, it’s good to have the PL back.

And what a cracker we have in store down in South Wales on Saturday evening, as Swansea City host reigning Champions Manchester United at the Liberty Stadium. United’s last home game of last season saw them beat Swansea 2-1 thanks to a late Rio Ferdinand header. Can they repeat that performance?

Michael Laudrup’s side have bought shrewdly again over the summer as they aim to build on their ninth-placed finish last time out. While David Moyes’ team consists of largely the same set of players that won the clubs 20th league title last season.

MORE: Game schedule  |  Match finder

This game should have everything. Swansea, especially at home, will attack United and with new signing Wilfried Bony partnering Michu up front, they can cause United real trouble. But United, well, they’re United. With RVP on form and the likes of Welbeck, Wilfried Zaha and others around they will certainly be looking to get off to a flying start to their title defense.

Both teams have players missing, with Rafael and Javier Hernandez out with hamstring injuries, while Nani and Ashley Young are also out for United. Wayne Rooney is a game-time decision for Moyes, after he came through 65 minutes of action for England in midweek unscathed. For Swansea Jonathan de Guzman will miss out due to concussion and Bony has traveled from New Jersey after featuring for the Ivory Coast in a friendly with Mexico.

Can Moyes’ men send out a message to the rest of the league by comfortably dispatching the stylish Swans? You can find out by tuning in live on Saturday at 12:30pm ET on NBC to watch Swansea host Manchester United. And you can watch that game all the Premier League games live via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What they’re saying

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling: “Going into the season as champions brings that expectation. We know that when we step out onto the pitch we’re seen as the best but we know we need to show that we are, and we’re all determined to do that. We’ve got some big fixtures at the start of the season but if we can put on some really good performances then it’s going to give us a big boost if we can pick up a few points and possibly set us apart from our rivals

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup on United: “It’s never the right moment to play Man United because there is always quality. I could sit here and say it’s the best moment you can play Man United or top team like that and we lose 3-0 on Saturday. But [having] said that we know we have to play them, so I think in the beginning is not a bad moment.”

David Moyes on Wayne Rooney: “I will need to see how he is when we get back. When I get back I will try and assess him. I watched the game on Wednesday night [England vs. Scotland] and I thought for the 65 minutes or so that he played, I thought he did well. He ran around, he got himself some fitness, but it certainly was his first outing in any real competitive game.”

Prediction

I can see this one being an entertaining draw at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans have already been back in the swing of things following their Europa League qualifying campaign and Bony looks the real deal up top. However United will want to start off on a positive foot away from home. Expect plenty of end-to-end action as the champions head to Wales looking to impress.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Leave a comment

A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Leave a comment

This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
1 Comment

Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.