Projecting Manchester United's Opening-Day Line-Up vs. Swansea City

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentAugust 9, 2014

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 04: (L) Ryan Giggs and manager of Manchester United Louis Van Gaal sit on the bench prior to the game against Liverpool in the Guinness International Champions Cup 2014 Final at Sun Life Stadium on August 4, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

A lot can change in a week during the summer transfer window.

But, as it stands, Louis van Gaal's first team as Manchester United manager almost picks itself.

The Dutchman used 26 players during the tour of the United States. But his first XI rarely changed. His squad is so thin that chopping and changing isn't a luxury he can afford.

Van Gaal is fortunate that the fixture list has been kind. United start the season with games against Swansea, Sunderland, Burnley, QPR, Leicester and West Ham United.

It will give the new United manager time to learn more about his players before greater tests against Everton and Chelsea in October.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 17:  Louis van Gaal appears at a press conference as he is unveiled as the new Manchester United manager at Old Trafford on July 17, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

But for the opener against Swansea at Old Trafford on August 16, Van Gaal's options are limited.

David de Gea will start in goal, as he will all season providing he's not struck down by injury or a severe loss of form.

Van Gaal stuck with his new 5-3-2 system throughout pre-season, and he's expected to continue with it, at least in the early part of the season.

WIGAN, ENGLAND - APRIL 11: Jonny Evans of Manchester United speaks to team mate Phil Jones during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Manchester United at the DW Stadium on April 11, 2012 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Michael Rega
Michael Regan/Getty Images

That means he'll pick a back three of Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. 

He's looking for another centre-half. But with no new arrivals, Evans, Jones and Smalling are the only three first-team defenders he has available.

Antonio Valencia will start as the right-wing-back, provided he recovers from the injury that forced him off against Liverpool in Miami in the final of the International Champions Cup.

Ashley Young will step in if Valencia or Rafael, who missed the bulk of the U.S. tour with a groin injury, don't make it.

Young could also start on the left, as he did against Liverpool, if Luke Shaw hasn't yet convinced Van Gaal of his fitness.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 04:  Steven Gerrard #8 of Liverpool is challenged by Juan Mata #8 of Manchester United in the Guinness International Champions Cup 2014 Final at Sun Life Stadium on August 4, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trot
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Michael Carrick won't recover from ankle surgery until October, so Van Gaal is likely to pick Darren Fletcher and Ander Herrera from his limited options in midfield.

Juan Mata is almost certain to start behind the strikers after his impressive summer tour. 

Danny Welbeck, who's recovering from a knee injury; Robin van Persie, who only returned to training on Monday; and Javier Hernandez are in line to partner Wayne Rooney up front.

It's likely to be Welbeck, if the England striker can prove his fitness.

 

United vs. Swansea (possible team): De Gea; Evans, Jones, Smalling, Valencia, Young; Fletcher, Herrera, Mata; Rooney, Welbeck.