Predicted Manchester United XI v Swansea: Herrera and Hernandez to start

Hernandez 2013

As Manchester United prepare to face Swansea City on Saturday, Vincent Ralph considers Louis van Gaal's first competitive starting line-up.

Manchester United may have enjoyed an outstanding start to life under new manager Louis van Gaal, but the real competition starts here.

United have a set of early fixtures that should set them up well for the season ahead. But as the fans witnessed under former boss David Moyes, matches they were once expected to win with ease suddenly became a whole lot trickier.

That should not be a problem under van Gaal, but he will want to get off to the best possible start against Swansea City on Saturday lunchtime as his side kick off the new Premier League campaign.

Here we take a look at the 11 players who could take to the field in what is a vital campaign for United and their Dutch manager.

David de Gea

When fit, the Spanish goalkeeper will play.

Off the back of an outstanding individual season, it will be interesting to see if De Gea can improve even further, especially when you consider he needs to quickly get used to a new 3-5-2 formation and the possible uncertainty that will bring – at least in the early days – at the heart of a young defence.

Antonio Valencia

The Ecuador international is a doubt for Saturday's game but he could well shake off a slight knock and take his place in the right wing-back position.

Rumours persist that Juan Cuadrado could be at United by the end of the transfer window, but for now Valencia will be battling it out with Rafael for a starting spot. With the Brazilian injured, Valencia has the chance to show what he can do.

Jonny Evans

Another player with a slight knock, the Northern Irishman should recover in time to play. His presence this season is vital as he has suddenly become the most experienced defender at van Gaal’s disposal.

With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand departed, the time has come for Evans to shine. And there is absolutely no reason why he will not.

Phil Jones

A player for all occasions (and all positions) in his early years at Old Trafford, it seems Jones is now well and truly a centre-back. And that is exactly the way it should be, with the young England international possessing the ability to become one of the best central defenders in England.

Chris Smalling

Talk earlier this summer was that Smalling could leave the club. And yet with a lack of defensive cover there is no way van Gaal will sanction a move. His passing ability could see him blossom in the new three-man back-line. But it is something he will need to adapt to quickly, with rumours persisting that the likes of Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind could soon be on their way.

Ashley Young

The pre-season revelation now has the chance to show he is back to his best. No player embraced van Gaal’s tactics more than Young, who thrived in a wing-back position and looked a goal-threat time and again.

He could be the surprise package this season but he will need to take advantage of Luke Shaw’s injury absence, keeping the goals – and the good performances – coming.

Darren Fletcher

United’s new vice-captain will play a vital role this season, especially with Michael Carrick currently on the side-lines.

United will surely want to strengthen in midfield areas, but for now it is up to Fletcher and Ander Herrera to ensure the season begins as they hope it goes on.

Ander Herrera

A year after he was first tipped to move from Spain to England, Herrera is now set to make his competitive debut for United. And if pre-season is anything to go by, the fans are in for a treat.

Too much should not be expected of Herrera too soon, but he is exactly the type of player the club has been crying out for and he should go on to become a United great if he continues on his current trajectory.

Juan Mata

This season is the one in which United fans will see the real Juan Mata. Set to play in his natural position behind the front-men, the former Chelsea player is being tipped by many to have another outstanding campaign.

He will want to start as he means to go on against Swansea, showing the Old Trafford faithful just what a good signing he was back in January.

Wayne Rooney

The new United captain could be set for his most prolific campaign in a United shirt. Playing up front and off the back of an impressive pre-season, Rooney could be United’s catalyst.

Forget the media-induced rivalry between him and Robin van Persie. Under van Gaal the two players can thrive alongside each other and become one of the very best striking partnerships in world football.

Javier Hernandez

With van Persie still approaching match fitness, I expect Hernandez to start against the Swans. Talk persists that the Mexican could be on his way out of Old Trafford. But for now he remains an important and constant goal-threat and van Gaal is unlikely to ignore that in a game he must win.

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