Season start great for Van Gaal

Congleton Guardian: Louis van Gaal's first Premier League game as Manchester United boss will be against Swansea Louis van Gaal's first Premier League game as Manchester United boss will be against Swansea

Former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke believes Louis van Gaal can benefit from the club's early Barclays Premier League matches.

On the day the fixtures for the 2014/15 season were announced, United were handed an opening visit by Swansea, before travelling to Sunderland. Newly-promoted trio, Burnley, QPR, Leicester are next up, before a home match against West Ham on September 27.

Yorke said: "He's managed to get a home game first and I'm sure he'll be delighted with their first three. On paper they look relatively easy for him."

The 42-year-old, who played for the club from 1998 until 2002, believes United can also take advantage of Van Gaal's positive relationship with striker Robin van Persie.

Yorke continued on Sky Sports News: "It's no secret that they have an outstanding relationship, we've seen it at the World Cup (with Holland). He seems to be playing with a great deal of confidence - and every top player wants that understanding with a manager.

"That could be crucial for United when they come back to the club. It's going to be exciting to see who he brings in.

"Central defence is an area which needs strengthening, central midfield needs to be looked at - and maybe he can look at the wide areas too and freshen things up."

Elsewhere, champions Manchester City will begin the defence of their title at Newcastle, before Liverpool - the team they pipped to the trophy - visit the Etihad Stadium the following week.

The first Manchester derby of the season is scheduled for November 1 at the Etihad Stadium, with the reverse slated for April 11.

Liverpool are due to start on August 16 with a home game against Southampton - Ronald Koeman's first game in charge.

Saints executive director Les Reed believes Merseyside-born Rickie Lambert, who moved to Anfield from the south-coast club recently, will get a good reception from the travelling fans.

Reed said: "I think they'll give him a fantastic reception - he's done some fantastic things for this club.

"They were disappointed to see him go but they realise the special nature of that transfer and won't forget what he's done here. The move's gone smoothly and he's been respectful."

Chelsea, who finished third in 2013-14, head north for an opening day match against Burnley.

The Clarets, who secured promotion back to the top flight under Sean Dyche, then travel to Swansea before facing United at Turf Moor.

Championship-winning Leicester face a challenging start, with a home match against Everton followed by games against Chelsea and Arsenal.

The Gunners start at home to Crystal Palace, while north London rivals Tottenham - now managed by Mauricio Pochettino - are at West Ham.

The third match in London on the opening weekend of the season sees QPR, promoted courtesy of a Wembley play-off final win over Derby, take on beaten FA Cup finalists Hull.

Rangers chief executive Philip Beard added on Sky Sports News: "We're delighted to be there. We know we need to strengthen a bit and will work hard over the next few weeks.

"We don't need wholesale changes, just to add some quality to what is already a very good squad," added Beard - who revealed there had been "no discussions at all" on reported transfer target Tom Ince.

Alan Irvine's first Premier League match as West Brom manager is at home to Sunderland, who survived thanks to a stirring revival under the leadership of Gus Poyet, while the other opening day match pairs Stoke and Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium.

There are some appealing Boxing Day fixtures, including two London derbies, with Arsenal at home to QPR and Chelsea facing West Ham. Burnley also tackle Liverpool at Turf Moor.

Stoke is Liverpool's destination on the final week of the season, when City are at home to Southampton and United travel to Hull.

Sunday, May 24 also sees Everton take on Tottenham, while Leicester and QPR are set to meet in a game which could be significant at the bottom end of the table.

Arsenal finish against West Brom, Burnley go to Villa, Chelsea meet Sunderland, Palace face Swansea and Newcastle take on West Ham.

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