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Ready from the get-go

"Rather than playing catch-up from the off, United have the chance to kick off the campaign with a statement of intent. No pressure, I'm really looking forward to it."

- ManUtd.com's Ben Hibbs

14/07/2014 15:33, Report by Ben Hibbs
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Opinion: Reds can state early intent

Louis van Gaal has been presented with the perfect opportunity to set the tone for his reign as Manchester United boss when the Reds take on Swansea at Old Trafford in the 2014/15 curtain-raising clash on Saturday 16 August.

Even in the Dutchman's absence during the World Cup, there is a palpable sense of anticipation at the Aon Training Complex as coaches and players alike are itching to get going to avenge the frustrations of last season. "Everyone's excited," says Ryan Giggs. "We had a disappointing season last year and everyone's keen to get us back to where we belong; and that's the top."

Van Gaal will have exactly a month to prepare himself and his new squad for the campaign's big start, almost immediately jetting off to the US to ramp up pre-season preparations.

Much in football has to do with timing and so there is something symbolic in United being first to get the new season under way when Swansea visit Old Trafford for the 12:45 kick-off on the opening day. First impressions count. With a new boss in town this week, the players will be aware of that throughout the summer.

That said, United got off to a flying start in August last year when Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck helped the Reds to a 4-1 win over the very same opponent. Any momentum in the league was soon lost after a 0-0 draw with Chelsea, 1-0 defeat to Liverpool and a 4-1 loss to Manchester City. 

Victory on the opening day doesn't guarantee the title-chasing form we all hope van Gaal's pedigree will bring, but everything we've seen of the Dutchman throughout his extensive career and, most recently, leading Netherlands to third place at the World Cup in Brazil, suggests he is a man and a manager whose aims and ambitions visibly shine through in his teams.

He has already stated his intent to make his mark early by allowing himself very little post-World Cup downtime. "It's no problem for me, I don't need a holiday," he said this week. It's the type of bullishness we have come to expect from

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