The Louis Van Gaal era in the Premier League got off to a faltering start at lunchtime in Old Trafford today as Swansea inflicted a 2-1 defeat on the Dutchman in his first league game in charge. Goals from Ki Sung Yeung and Glyfi Siggurdsson either side of a Wayne Rooney equaliser were enough to hand 3 points to the side from South Wales and spoil the coronation of King Louis.
Van Gaal stuck to his preferred 3-5-2 system from pre season and handed debuts to Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard, the latter playing in an unfamiliar right wing back role. The message from the new manager before the game was clear; “do what we have agreed and we will win”. The home side saw the lion’s share of possession in the opening stages but it proved to be sterile domination as they offered little threat in the final third. In truth it was a subdued performance limited to half chances, Wayne Rooney’s header straight at Lukasz Fabianski, the sole effort on target. Lingard’s debut was brought to a close prematurely after a 50-50 challenge with Ashley Williams forced him to withdraw, and be replaced with Adnan Januzaj. After some good work done the right from Swansea, the ball fell to Ki on the edge of the area, the South Korean midfielder making no mistake and stroking the ball into the bottom corner of De Gea’s goal.
Javier Hernandez was replaced by Nani at the interval and Van Gaal switched to a 4-4-2 with Ashley Young at left back and Juan Mata operating just behind Wayne Rooney. Januzaj looked more comfortable on the right of a midfield four and caused problems for Swansea down the right, winning the corner that led to the equalising goal. Juan Mata’s left footed corner found Phil Jones who flicked it on for Rooney to finish acrobatically. The new Manchester United captain led by example to score his 174th career Premier League goal and move just one goal behind Thierry Henry in the list of all time PL scorers. Rooney almost doubled his tally for the afternoon soon after, his curling free kick hitting the frame of the goal with Fabianski beaten all ends up. With his final change, Van Gaal replaced debutant Ander Herrera with Marouane Fellaini, the Belgian slotting in behind Rooney with Mata dropping deeper into midfield. After a quickly taken free kick, Swansea launched another counter attack, working the ball out to the exciting Jefferson Montero. The Ecuadorian beat Phil Jones and stood the ball up at the back post for Nathan Dyer, who diverted the ball to Sigurdsson, the Icelander making no mistake in restoring the Swans’ lead. Ashley Young’s inexperience at left back was exposed badly here as he got underneath Montero’s cross and mistimed his header. United pressed for an equaliser but to no avail as Swansea held out to give Gary Monk the perfect start to the season.
It was a slow, insipid display from United but take nothing away from Swansea, who deserved all three points with an impressive counter attacking display. The decision to replace Herrera with Fellaini at 1-1 seemed an odd one, the tempo to United’s play in midfield dropped considerably after the Spaniard’s departure. It’s been 50 days since Luke Shaw signed, and all eyes must now look to Ed Woodward, with further evidence today that Van Gaal needs additional reinforcements, particularly at the back. Over to you Ed.