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Swansea City aim for the biggest scalp of all as they get set for Manchester United

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 19, 2012

Luke Moore is mobbed after scoring against Manchester City last season

Luke Moore is mobbed after scoring against Manchester City last season

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SWANSEA City's Premier League roll of honour is getting longer all the time.

But there are still prizes to be gained and plaudits to be earned, and an opportunity to break new ground presents itself this weekend.

Manchester United are in town, and already anticipation is building.

Many a feather has been added to Swansea's cap over the last 16 months, but United's coat has so far been unruffled by the team from the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea have upset every other one of the Premier League's heavyweights since they climbed into the big time.

Now comes a chance to slay the biggest giant of them all.

Few outside these parts will fancy Swansea to do it — United are odds-on with bookmakers to take all three points despite being away from home.

But then hardly anyone expected Swansea to survive in the Premier League, let alone trouble the clubs at the top end of the table.

Yet that is exactly what they have done.

The first sign that Swansea could compete with the big guns came in November last year when they were clapped off by the locals after a goalless draw at Anfield.

The next head-turning result came on the last day of 2011, when Scott Sinclair swept home late on to deny Tottenham Hotspur — who at that stage were the hottest team in the country — victory in SA1.

That result was a huge one for Brendan Rodgers's Swansea side, who soon humbled Arsenal at the Liberty — a first three-point haul taken from one of the big four — and then delivered a winning draw with Chelsea.

Next Swansea brought the house down by humbling the mighty Manchester City, and Liverpool were beaten in Rodgers's last game in charge.

Michael Laudrup has kept up the good work, upsetting Rodgers's Reds in the Capital One Cup and earning another draw against Chelsea, by now the European champions.

Laudrup's best result yet came earlier this month at the Emirates Stadium, when Michu's late double saw Swansea beat Arsenal once again.

There has been plenty of squawking since that unforgettable victory about how bad this Gunners side are, but it is worth noting that the Swansea reverse was their only defeat in seven league matches.

Where was Arsenal's last loss before that? Manchester United.

On Sunday the Red Devils come to Wales intent on taking another step towards a possible 20th league title.

For Swansea, Laudrup points out, meetings with such glittering opponents are not where seasons are made or broken.

"We have four games in nine days coming up," says the Dane.

"We start off with the one that everybody wants to play in and to watch, but for me the two most important games over Christmas are away at Reading and at home to Aston Villa.

Key games

"For me, they are the key games in this period.

"Then after that we have Arsenal in the FA Cup, then three days later we have the semi-final in the league cup.

"And I don't even want to think about what will happen if the Arsenal tie goes to a replay."

Laudrup has had to take a few deep breaths as he contemplates how to negotiate a path through English football's festive fixture pile-up for the first time.

Changes are inevitable and, with Reading to come only three days after United, he will presumably consider leaving out some of his star names this weekend.

Then again, Laudrup the manager has an impressive record against the top clubs — first in La Liga and now in the Premier League — and he will crave what would be a jaw-dropping result just as much as the 18,000 or so Swansea fans who are lucky enough to have tickets for United's visit.

Laudrup knows for certain that his team's focus will be right for a fixture that everybody wants to win.

And he is confident that if they get their performance right as well, United could be in for an awkward afternoon.

Sir Alex Ferguson's squad is packed with players of the finest quality, but they do not always get their way.

Norwich City, 1-0 winners over United at Carrow Road last month, should provide some inspiration for Swansea.

United do not lose often — their only other league defeats this season came at Everton on the opening weekend and at home to Spurs in September — but they are not unbeatable.

They may be top of the table, but Sir Alex's team have creaked at the back much more often than he would have liked.

Conceded

They have conceded 24 goals in 17 league games which, interestingly, is two more than Swansea.

So how are United six points clear of second-placed Manchester City going into the weekend and therefore guaranteed to be top at Christmas?

They have scored no fewer than 43 goals themselves — an average of more than 2.5 per game — which is way more than any other top-flight side has managed, with City the next best on only 33.

And so the key to Swansea's hopes of avoiding a third successive league defeat on Sunday will be how they stop United's frontmen, whether Sir Alex picks Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney or goes for 'back-up' men Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, scorer of the only goal in this fixture last season.

There are other threats, of course, like Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley and Antonio Valencia.

But if Ashley Williams and Co can deal with that little lot, Swansea may just stretch the roll of honour.

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  • abertawejack  |  December 19 2012, 8:10PM

    If Brilliant ML can motivate our Brilliant Team to play like they did in the second half of the Norwich game, done deal signed and dusted me thinks: C'mon U swanssssssssssssssssssssss.... Yeehaa.....................

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