Report - Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City
16th August 2014
Swansea City ruined Louis van Gaal's debut as Manchester United's new manager at Old Trafford, as Garry Monk's side produced a tactically sound performance as goals from Ki and Sigurdsson either side of half time gave them all three points.
Not many people gave the Swans any hope at all of getting anything from the game, with all eyes on Louis van Gaal and his new 3-5-2 system. It said it all when the pundits on BT Sport suddenly changed their minds on the game and the Swansea's whole season when they saw their starting line-up, which was a lot stronger than they expected given the amount of players that have left this Summer.
In contrast, United's team were lacking some title-winning players in key positions, particularly in defence. 3-5-2 is a new system and a tough test for the youngsters like Blackett and Lingaard to adjust to.
Their central players looked like a strong quartet of Mata, Fletcher, Herrera and Rooney. They helped van Gaal's side to dominate early possession and dictate play, and when they did lose the ball, they worked well to win it back quickly. This pressing made it difficult for Swansea City to get into any passing rhythm, as they were often forced to hitting the ball long in the hope that Bony could hold the ball up but often these were aimless clearances.
As expected, Garry Monk reverted back to the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation, with Ki and Shelvey in the key holding midfield roles. They had a lot of work to do early on to protect the back four and prevent the likes of Rooney and Mata drifting into too much space.
Shelvey refused to shy out of a challenge or three, and it was inevitable that he'd finally pick up a booking. With 20 fouls conceded throughout the game, with a number of them coming in the first 15 or 2 minutes, the Swansea defence proved solid and reliable in dealing with them - showing a big improvement from last year. Ki's height also helped their cause while Ashley Williams showed ust how important it was for the club to secure the skipper down to a new long-term contract.
United's best chance of an opening goal was attacking down the right flank where there was far more space compared to the opposite side. Fabianksi, who didn't put a foot wrong all day, had to be alert to palm away Phil Jones tricky and powerful effort from a wide angle.
But as Swansea City started to settle in the game and put some passes together - 29 in total - Ki scored his first ever goal for the club just before the half-hour mark after some excellent, patient build-up play.
Early on, the Swans had to be quick and counter attacking to try and create chances, but come the 28th minute, United started to back off and gave their opponents time and space to pass it around it defence. Clever down the right involving Dyer and Rangel saw the ball move to Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic moved the ball inside and away from a defender before laying it off nicely for Ki to slot home with his left foot. Bony blocked Jones' attempts to close the South Korean down, who was in acres of space on the edge of the box to find the corner of the net.
Disappointingly, Swansea's lead lasted only 8 minutes into the second half, as Mata's in-swinging corner caused problems, Rangel lost Rooney and allowed him to create 2 yards of space to acrobatically finish from close range after Phil Jones' flick-on at the front post.
van Gaal changed things around at the start of the second half as Hernandez made way for Nani, with the formation changing to a much-needed safer 4-2-3-1 - or you'd have thought.
The formation change helped United in an attacking sense, their man striker Wayne Rooney saw more of the ball and the Swansea defence was still tested, but they remained solid enough.
On another day, United would have gone on and won quite comfortably - thanks to the momentum an equaliser brings, but United were rusty and Swansea City were far too organised and solid to allow the gap to slip away.
Garry Monk timed his substitutions well. Montero is just the type of player you want available to run at tiring full backs and Gomis offered something slightly different to Wilfried Bony up front.
Swansea City had a minor scare before their second goal as Jordi Amat conceded a free-kick in a promising position for Rooney to take aim. His curling effort hit the corner of the crossbar much to the relief of goalkeeper Fabianksi who was struggling to get across to cover it.
Thanks to United kicking the ball straight back after a foul, Bony was able to take a quick free kick and release Montero down the left flank. On the opposite side, Young showed what happens when you put attacking players in at wing or full back.
Montero picked out the unmarked Routledge at the far post, with Young not even realising he was there. Routledge's miss-kick fell kindly to Gylfi Sigurdsson and he side-footed a shot past de Gea to restore Swansea City's lead with 18 minutes left to play plus another 6 in injury time. (4 was initially given but this was Mike Dean at Old Trafford)
Swansea City held on for a famous win at Old Trafford, as Manchester United suffered their first opening day defeat at home since the 70's.
Garry Monk proved a lot of his doubters wrong. Many pundits automatically put Swansea City down as relegation fodder, and doubted the young man's ability to cope in his first full season as manager - and in the Premier League no less. But the 35 year-old showed a big improvement today in comparison to last season. A long pre-season of planning and preparation has helped to implement his plan and way of playing, and that was executed brilliantly today - not to mention the game plan of allowing United to pass freely in their own half while playing quite deep with a very disciplined defence.
It's also worth mentioning how clinical the team were. They might have only managed 4 shots on goal, but that was more than enough. All 4 shots were on target, and of course 2 of them were goals.
There's a long way to go of course, but an away win at Manchester United isn't a bad start!
For team line-ups and stats, click here