Report - Manchester United 2-1 Swansea City
2nd January 2016
Swansea City came back from a goal behind to equalise at Manchester United with 20 minutes to play, but they couldn`t hold on for another valuable point as Rooney converted Martial`s cross to take the three points.
United had control for the majority of the first time but as has been the story in the League this season for van Gaal`s side, they couldn`t create many clear cut chances to make their dominance count.
The Swans couldn`t get going either. van Gaal got his side playing an effective high pressing game, closing off passing angles and making it difficult to play out from the back, as even Leon Britton couldn`t help his team to get into any passing rhythm.
After making 8 changes to the team that drew 0-0 at Crystal Palace on Monday, caretaker boss Alan Curtis went back to a more recognised line-up in a 4-4-2 diamond. The likes of Rangel, Britton, Fernandez, Ki, Ayew and Routledge all returning - after most of which were rested at Selhurst Park.
Swansea`s narrow setup and their game plan to keep Routledge and Ayew further up the pitch allowed Manchester United to cause plenty of problems for Swansea`s full backs down the wings. Ashley Young in particular was constantly testing Neil Taylor`s defensive ability, before Martial grew in confidence after opening the scoring 2 minutes into the second half.
Herrera had United`s best chance of the first 45 in the opening few minutes after a good one two inside the penalty area, but Fernandez did well to quickly come across and make an important block.
United should have also done better after taking a quick free-kick on the edge of the area that caught the Swans by surprise, but Taylor was alert to make another vital interception.
Some of the Old Trafford crowd thought that Rooney had scored, but his low shot hit the side netting, and as the chances went begging, the home crowd began to wonder if this was going to be yet another long afternoon.
Come half time, the home crowded was almost silent, not impressed with their side`s performances, the groans began to be hear and there were some boos when the referee signalled half time.
Swansea City will have been reasonably happy to go back into the dressing room with the scores unchanged, but they knew they could play a whole lot better. Too many players were over complicating things, taking too many touches and losing possession as United`s pressed high and applied plenty of pressure in Swansea`s half.
They were also struggling for an attacking outlet. Routledge and Ayew were staying up field - rather than dropping deep to help out in defence - which didn`t help the full backs - but that was their only hope of creating chances - getting in behind United`s wing backs as van Gaal went with a "risky" 3-4-2-1 system.
After a difficult start to the first half where Swansea took a while to settle and to stop making unforced errors - they finally started to pin United back - whose energetic pressing began to ease - allowing the visitors to push forward and finally get the ball into the final third.
They had two shouts for a penalty but both were correctly ignored by the ref either side of the break. The first saw a cross from the right bounce off a United`s player`s leg and then off his arm, before Rangel was shown a yellow for a dive inside the box.
Routledge`s volley was de Gea`s only save of the first half but despite a lack of attacking threat, Alan Curtis would have been the happier of the two managers.
He wasn`t happy for long though, as United took the lead just 2 minutes after the restart. It was no surprise to see it come out from the wide right. All of United`s first half chances came from that flank. Young sent in the cross and Martial powered in a header to finally give the Old Trafford crowd something to cheer about.
The goal forced the Swans to push forward and finally play some attacking football, but it wasn`t until Barrow came on and replaced Britton that they gave the home defence something to think about.
Within a minute or so of coming on, Barrow helps to create a great chance. Ayew`s header from Sigurdsson hit the post after good initial work from the winger down the right.
That big chance had given the Swans some confidence and belief now that they could get an equaliser, while United looked far from convincing that they would go on and get a second that would have guaranteed the victory.
7 minutes after that chance, Swansea City did get their equaliser, and it was Barrow again causing problems down the right flank. Sigurdsson met the Gambian`s cross and his header looped over de Gea to make it 1-1.
The Swans were hopeful now of at least hanging on for a point, but they were level for just 7 minutes as United scored their second - and again - it came from out wide - this time on the left. Martial was now doing the same as Young, skinning the full back and sending in tricky crosses that were difficult for the defence to clear. It wasn`t, and Wayne Rooney actually found the net - with a clever back heel flick.
It was disappointing defending from the Swans who had looked a lot more solid in that department recently, but Martial was just far too quick and skilful for Rangel to cope with.
It was a nervy ending for United though, Swansea were pushing for a second equaliser and after a few half chances, it was goalkeeper Lucasz Fabianski who had the last and best chance to make it 2-2. Sigurdsson sent in a corner, with the goalkeeper up for the set piece, he met it with a powerful header that must have flown just inches past the near post.
It was a performance that improved in the second half after looking too ever-prone and vulnerable in the first half. They were sloppy in possession but they got better, but whilst it was another show of good desire, effort and work rate, they`re still lacking that extra 10% of quality they needed to hold on for a point. They still need to show a little more to get out of trouble, as they`re still only 2 points ahead of the bottom three.