Man U to unleash new stars
MANCHESTER, England (AP): The two-week break for internationals has forced Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal to wait patiently before unleashing his glut of new, expensive signings.
The wait is almost over, with Radamel Falcao, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo all set to make their competitive debuts for United against Queens Park Rangers (QPR) on Sunday.
And Van Gaal will be desperate for his new players to settle in quickly with United yet to win any of their first three games in the English Premier League, continuing the team's miserable form from last season.
Chelsea host Swansea tomorrow in a match featuring the only two teams with a maximum of nine points so far, and Manchester City travel to Arsenal for the standout game in the fourth round of fixtures.
Now that Van Gaal has buttressed his squad with a slew of top-class players, the Dutchman has to decide where they all fit in his team.
And there will have to be some fall guys.
The likelihood is that deadline-day signing Falcao - whose season-long loan is costing United around US$25 million for the salary and fee - will partner Robin van Persie up front, with captain Wayne Rooney set to be in the No. 10 role behind them. Angel Di Maria, recruited for US$99 million from Real Madrid last month, will be one of the two central midfielders along with either Blind or Ander Herrera.
The players who could drop out are Spain playmaker Juan Mata, a then-club-record signing from Chelsea in January, and vice-captain Darren Fletcher. And where will Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick fit in when fit?
Included in a QPR defence attempting to keep out the Premier League's new 'galacticos' will be Rio Ferdinand, who left United in the summer after 12 years.
United has two points, one less than promoted QPR.
Chelsea was expected to be among the leaders at this stage of the season. Swansea certainly were not.
After just about surviving relegation last season and losing star forward Michu over the summer, preserving their Premier League status for another year was the priority for Swansea under new manager Garry Monk.
The Welsh club is exceeding expectations with wins over Man United, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion, and has nine points.
"Expectations always go high with wins," Monk said, "but we're realistic enough to know that being safe as soon as possible is obviously the target."
Chelsea have been the standout team so far, with a 6-3 win at Everton setting the standard for attacking football.
Summer signing Diego Costa has settled in quickly, scoring four goals, but returned from international duty with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss Spain's European Championship qualifier against Macedonia.
With Olivier Giroud out for four months, Danny Welbeck is likely to be Arsenal's main striker until the end of 2014, and should make his debut against Man City tomorrow after a deadline-day move from Man United.
Welbeck was rarely given a chance as central striker at United and was often criticised for his lack of cutting edge in front of goal. But he showed how dangerous he can be in that position by scoring both of England's goals in a 2-0 win over Switzerland in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Monday.
Aaron Ramsey is a doubt for Arsenal with an ankle injury sustained on international duty with Wales. Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs and Mesut Ozil are available after injury.
City are looking to bounce back from a surprise 1-0 home loss to Stoke that ended the champions' winning start to the season.