WINNER: Tyler Blackett
Manchester born and raised Blackett had a chance to make his senior team competitive debut on Saturday after a very strong showing in preseason and he made the most of it. Blackett played the full 90 and looked very comfortable with the ball. He had a 93% passing success rate, highest in the game of any player who played significant minutes, and nearly perfect on short passes. He hit on 13 of 18 long passes. With a defense broken down, Blackett was steady on defense. He also had 2 interceptions.
WINNER: Adnan Januzaj
Manchester United looked lost and unbalanced. They had very little flow to the offense and lacked pace. Until Januzaj came in. Arguably, the most effective player on the field today for United and he didn’t even start. United was the most threatening when Januzaj had the ball at his feet, which was often. Januzaj was second on the team with total shots with three, led the team in successful dribbles and was fouled a team high 4 times. Players fouled a lot is a good indicator of who was giving an opponent issues, thus fouling them to stop their momentum. He gave United pace and hope. When the team decided to attack down the other wing, the team again looked off balance and without pace.
LOSER: 3-5-2 System
Van Gaal has deployed his 3-5-2 system all pre-season with much success. Today however, the system, or, played within the system, were exposed. To successful run the system you need strong central defenders who can command the game. United lacked them tonight, who was missing Jonny Evans. Ashley Young, playing as a left wing most of pre-season in a high level, was exposed and failed Van Gaal when the games actually mattered. At half-time, Van Gaal took Chicharito off the pitch and replaced him with Nani, a midfielder. It was clear. For this day, the 3-5-2 was dead. United move back to a 4-4-2 with Phil Jones and Young as the wing backs and Chris Smalling and Blackett as central defenders. United started to look better on offense, but were showing big flaws on defense. Young and Smalling failing to mark their guy on Swansea City’s second goal. United never were able to truly test the Swansea City keeper Lukasz Fabianski. Van Gaal won’t abandon his system, but knows he needs better players if the system is to work in the future.
WINNER: Wayne Rooney
This is no doubt a big season for Rooney. All summer he only heard about Robin Van Persie this and that. It was never about him. Some even suggesting Rooney should move to the midfield, like he did with the club employed Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo. But, Rooney battled hard in training camp and earned himself the trust of Van Gaal to be named the club captain. With the team in need today and struggling, Rooney came out of nowhere to find a goal. At the moment it was the equaliser and finally gave United attack the wake up call it needed. With the offence all but dead, Rooney found a way to score. Rooney was very active tonight and was the most consistent attacked Fabianski faced. Rooney is setting himself up for a gigantic season.
LOSER: Javier Hernandez
For a while during the summer, it looked as if Chicharito had revived his career. Played well for Mexico at the World Cup and scored a beauty goal against Real Madrid. He got his big reward from Van Gaal on Saturday. A starting job next to Rooney. Chicharito looked like a player who hasn’t played in months. Looked slow and rusty with the ball. His game was bad enough that Van Gaal took him off at half-time, possibly his last 45′ minutes at Old Trafford. Chicharito didn’t register any shots on goal in his halve of work. Only Bafetimbi Gomis had less touches (11) then Chicharito (14) did, and Gomis only played 13′ minutes. Lingard who left after 24′ minutes due to an injury, had 29 touches. The match might have been the worst of Chicharito’s Old Trafford career and it came at the absolute worst time.