A baptism of fire as United’s saviour experienced the intensity and tenacity of a Premier League game for the first time. Underwhelming would be a generous description of a game that United never looked like winning. An organised and disciplined Swansea managed to survive 3-5-2, 4-4-2 and the perilous hit and hope to Marouane Felliani. After an impressive pre-season, a lot more was expected of United but an inexperienced defence and a blunt attack left the players looking lost and even the tactical nuance of the ‘mad genius’ couldn’t lift them. ‘’If they do what we have agreed, then we will win’’. The agreement was broken as Swansea ran out 2-1 winners at Old Trafford. This was how United’s misfiring stars performed.
De Gea: Conceded two goals that he could do little about. As it currently stands he will be the only steady piece of a terribly inexperienced defensive jig-saw. De Gea was tested early on with a shot by Sigurdsson and he had to keep alert throughout due to United’s backline looking extremely disorganised.
Lingard: A much delayed competitive debut ended up being hugely disappointing for Lingard, who went off injured after 25 minutes. While he was on the pitch, Jesse was tidy in possession and put in a few dangerous crosses. He was replaced by Adnan Januzaj.
Jones: The first half was a bit of a disaster tactically. Since 3-5-2 makes it difficult to mark attackers, Jones got caught out with long balls over the top. Despite this he made some fantastic saving tackles and showed great pace on occasions when Montero and Routledge tried to get outside of him. Jones looked more comfortable in the second half with 4-4-2 and if United do indeed bring in a centre back I expect him to partner Jones at the back.
Smalling: Again playing at the centre of the back three, Smalling was wasteful with his passing. He gave the ball away too frequently in the first half and was constantly out of position. It was tough for Smalling dealing with the physicality of Bony and then Gomis but improvement is essential if he is to be first choice all season.
Blackett: Injuries might have forced van Gaal into handing Blackett his competitive debut but if he keeps up this level of performance he will challenge any of the current crop of defenders for their place. Blackett looks assured and confident in possession which was what saved the back-line from completely collapsing. Other than picking up a yellow for a poor tackle in the second half, Tyler can be pleased with his individual performance.
Young: A torrid afternoon for Ashley Young ended up with him playing left back of a back four. At wing back in the first half the system failed thus Young never got into the game. The second goal came from poor positioning on Young’s behalf, however it is difficult to blame him due to the position he was forced to play. During pre-season he was showing signs of rediscovering the creative edge that defined his Villa career but his crosses towards the end of the second half were high, long and unthreatening. If 3-5-2 is abandoned it is difficult to see where Young’s future lies.
Fletcher: Did not provide the energy and steel that United are missing. Fletcher never drove at Swansea or pushed their midfield back at any point in the game. Having the option of Fletcher is useful but not the answer. When Felliani was brought on I was surprised that it was not Fletcher who made way. Scholes made it clear that United are lacking in quality in the middle and this must be addressed.
Herrera: Ander looks certain to pick up over ten yellow cards this season but his fiery nature will serve him well in coping with the aggressiveness of Premier League football. He was clattered over in the opening ten minutes by Shelvey and was involved in several tough tackles throughout the match. Herrera always looks to pass the ball forward but Swansea managed to close him down and shut down United’s midfield. He needs a strong tackler beside him to flourish this season.
Mata: Juan was in a similar situation as he was against Valencia. Swansea left no space in the ‘number ten area’ and United failed to create any for Mata to manoeuvre. He was involved in United’s best move of the game when he played in Phil Jones who forced a save from Fabianski. His set pieces were poor up until the goal which resulted from a brilliant, whipped corner from the Spaniard.
Chicharito: Hernandez never influenced the game. The team were not getting balls over the top so his contribution was zero. The modern day striker has to offer more than poaching goals and the little Pea has no other redeeming qualities. Welbeck’s energy will almost certainly earn him a starting place over Hernandez, so it is time for United to cash in on a player who is currently offering nothing to the team.
Rooney: Past discrepancies aside, Wayne really is the best choice for United captain. On the rare occasions that the team worked the ball to Rooney in the last third he always looked dangerous. The improvised finished for the goal was beautiful and his almost inch perfect free kick hit the bar in the second half. My only criticism of Wayne was that his final pass on the break was misplaced on two or three occasions. These were simple passes that should not have been misplaced and they scuppered a number of promising attacks.
Januzaj: Came on midway through the second half after Jesse Lingard sustained a knee injury. Adnan again showed his quality by breezing past defenders and driving the attack forward. His balance really is astounding and he gave Taylor a horrible ten minutes that led to him getting booked and substituted. Beating players and getting into good positions is only a useful attribute if you then make the right decision. This is what separates good players from great players and yesterday Januzaj did not make the step up. He shot from poor angles and tried to continue running when he should have passed. I am sure as he matures, Adnan’s decision making will improve but United could really have done without his wasteful play yesterday.
Nani: Came on for Hernandez at half time in a formation change from 3-5-2 to 4-4-1-1. United did look more comfortable with this shape but Nani was as wasteful as always. He really hasn’t improved since the impressive start to his United career and it is ridiculous that he is the man brought on to change the game. Poor crossing, inability to beat players and absolutely no work rate should make Nani surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
Felliani: Another player who really is not good enough to bring on when the team is losing. The only good thing about Felliani’s appearance was that the sarcastic cheers that marred his Valencia cameo were thankfully absent. He always looks clumsy in midfield and his presence was only so United could use route one, long ball tactics aimed at the big Belgian. A nasty elbow on Ki should have saw him sent off in the last 15 minutes; if this is United’s midfield cover then it is going to be a long season.