Swansea can sour Van Gaal's Happy New Year hopes
Any hopes of a Happy New Year will evaporate if LVG's side fail to beat Swansea City on Saturday.
LONDON - 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.
"The past year was one full of mixed emotions and we did not finish 2015 on a high as we'd have hoped," Van Gaal wrote in his programme notes for his first game of 2016.
"We know it will be tough and know we have to be creative and take our chances if we are going to end this run without a win."
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.
"I always admire any player that's come from the non-league into the Premier League, it's a hard journey to make and you really do have to excel to make it and be noticed," said Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe.
"He deserves all the plaudits for what he's done. He's got unique strengths, he combines an incredible work ethic with real pace and determination and fight to score his next goal...our defenders need to be very alert."
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.
Southampton, without injured top scorer Graziano Pelle, visit Norwich City while West Bromwich Albion host Stoke City.
In a battle of the bottom two teams, Sunderland aim to end a run of five successive defeats when they host Aston Villa who are four points below them.
High-flying Crystal Palace entertain troubled champions Chelsea, 14th and level on points with Norwich and Bournemouth, in a London derby on Sunday. Fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur travel to Everton in the late match.