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Football: No nerves for Van Gaal as Premier League debut awaits

Louis van Gaal won't be suffering a sleepless night as the new Manchester United manager awaits his Premier League bow in Saturday's season opener against Swansea.

LONDON: Louis van Gaal won't be suffering a sleepless night as the new Manchester United manager awaits his Premier League bow in Saturday's season opener against Swansea. Van Gaal will get his first taste of the English top-flight at Old Trafford, but the confident Dutchman insists he hasn't felt any nerves at the start of one of the toughest challenges of his career.

The 63-year-old has impressed in his first four weeks at the United helm, overseeing five wins and a draw in pre-season, but it is in the league that his achievements will be judged. Swansea were one of eight teams who came to Old Trafford and won during the dismal reign of his predecessor David Moyes last season, creating a sense of vulnerability that van Gaal has been hired to banish for good.

Last season United were noticeably short of the swagger they so often displayed when Alex Ferguson was in charge and van Gaal has pledged to restore that confident attitude as he looks to get his new team back into the top four.

"I am very confident. I am not nervous, don't you see it?" Van Gaal said. "I am not worried. The most important thing is the fans shall understand how we play and the way of playing will give pleasure to them."

Wayne Rooney will lead United out for the first time since being named captain after Tuesday's 2-1 friendly win over Valencia. But United will have to make do without Dutch striker Robin van Persie, who is short of fitness after his post-World Cup holiday, as well as new left-back Luke Shaw, midfielder Michael Carrick, striker Danny Welbeck and defender Jonny Evans.

While the first day of the van Gaal revolution will attract worldwide attention, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, the league's longest serving boss, launches his assault on the league title at home to managerless Crystal Palace. Having ended a nine-year trophy drought by winning last season's FA Cup, Wenger's side gave an eye-catching demonstration of their title credentials by outclassing league champions Manchester City 3-0 in last weekend's Community Shield.

PALACE IN TROUBLE

New signing Alexis Sanchez, a £30 million (S$62.3 million) acquisition from Barcelona, is in line to make his competitive home debut against Palace and Wenger is convinced his team are ready to win the title for the first time since 2004.

"I believe we have a chance because we were a long time top of the league last year," Wenger said. "It is difficult to know how much better the other teams will be. We have some challenges we have of course to face that we did not face well last year, and that means we have to take more points from the top teams."

Palace go into the game in crisis after manager Tony Pulis left the club having falling out with co-chairman Steve Parish over transfer policy. Championship winners Leicester will play their first top-flight game since 2004 when they host Everton, while fellow promoted side QPR welcome Hull to Loftus Road.

Champions Manchester City begin their title defence at Newcastle on Sunday. When City last claimed the title, in 2012, they won only two of their opening five games the following season, but captain Vincent Kompany feels that they now possess the necessary know-how to retain their title.

"We know what to look out for. We know what not to do," said the Belgian centre-back. "The players at City have got experience with winning trophies. It goes in phases. We're in this phase now. We feel we can win it."

Liverpool, who narrowly lost out to City in last season's title race, open the campaign on Sunday at home to Southampton, who saw Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren all leave for Anfield in the close-season. Lallana will miss the reunion with his former club due to a knee injury, but Lambert and Lovren are both in contention to feature in what will be Liverpool's first competitive game since the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are expected to hand competitive debuts to new signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas when they visit the third promoted team, Burnley, on Monday.

Fixtures

Saturday (10pm Singapore time unless stated)

Arsenal v Crystal Palace (12.30am Sunday), Leicester v Everton, Manchester United v Swansea (7.45pm), Queens Park Rangers v Hull, Stoke v Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland, West Ham v Tottenham

Sunday

Liverpool v Southampton (8.30pm), Newcastle v Manchester City (11pm)

Monday (3am Tuesday)

Burnley v Chelsea