Spotlight on Van Gaal

Spotlight on Van Gaal

Beleaguered United take on Swansea City

Spotlight on Van Gaal
Any hopes of a Happy New Year will evaporate for Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal if his side fail to beat struggling Swansea City at Old Trafford on Saturday.

United are on an eight-match winless streak in all competitions and the Dutchman, whose team briefly topped the table in September, is under pressure as media speculation swirls around his future.

Swansea, who have already fired manager Garry Monk and are now under caretaker Alan Curtis, have been a bogey team for the triple European champions although the Welsh club have only one away league victory this season.

The Swans have won their last three Premier League matches against United by a 2-1 margin, including at the end of August when they turned the game around by switching from a 4-2-3-1 to a diamond formation at the Liberty Stadium.

They also ruined Van Gaal's first competitive game as United manager on the opening day of the 2014-15 season at Old Trafford. With Swansea languishing in 17th place, and United sixth, the Dutchman should get the victory he needs but anything less will turn up the heat on him.

Liverpool, level on points with United, can add to the pressure if they take three points at West Ham United in Saturday's lunchtime kickoff.

With the opening of the January transfer window, there will be plenty of players in the spotlight as clubs prepare to relax the purse strings and splash out in the push for glory or simple survival.

Leaders Arsenal, the only club who did not buy an outfield player last time around, have already said they will be busy as they chase their first title since 2004.

Arsene Wenger's men entertain relegation-threatened Newcastle United on Saturday while Leicester City, behind Arsenal on goal difference, host promoted Bournemouth.

There will be plenty of respect on both sides ahead of that encounter, with Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri describing the visitors as "very dangerous" opponents following December victories over Chelsea and Manchester United. Bournemouth, unbeaten in six matches, will be worried about Leicester's top scorer Jamie Vardy.

Manchester City, third and three points adrift of the top two, travel to Watford for Saturday's late kickoff. That match offers another reunion for Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores with City's Sergio Aguero and David Silva who played for him at Atletico Madrid and Valencia respectively.