Hernandez leaves Swans to rue miss of the season

Swansea City 0 Manchester United 1: Defensive gaffe lets in Mexican for decisive strike before Sinclair has air shot with goal at his mercy

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The Independent Football

Of all Sir Alex Ferguson's milestones, perhaps becoming the first managerin charge of an English Premier League side to win outside England does not warrant a bronze sign. The Scot and, indeed, his team crossed the border with rather more local issues on their mind – and thus would have recrossed it last night deeply relieved.

The deficit to Manchester City remains at five points. That was all that mattered to United. Not the historical oddity which said they had never won in Swansea in eight previous outings. With City having moved eight points clear in the 3pm kick-off, by this evening encounter the three points were an imperative. In truth, they were somewhat gruellingly earned. Call it typicallyresilient United.

"Swansea are a good footballing side and the concentration today we showed was exactly what we needed," said Ferguson. "In the context of how Swansea have been going it was a good result."

For their part, Swansea could rue a wasted opportunity to sprinkle a little magic dust on a fixture which means so much in their remarkable rise from being on the verge of dropping out of the Football League nine years ago. It was their mistakes which handed the points to the perennial title-chasers – a defensive cock-up which led to the goal and then a missed open goal. The upshot was a first defeat at home of the season and a descent out of the top 10.

"I'm proud of the players," said their manager, Brendan Rodgers. "The second half showing against a team of that quality was absolutely outstanding. We probably deserved to take something out this game."

It would be churlish not to praise their performance. Rodgers' boys live and, yes, may well die by their pure footballing philosophy. Before the game Dai Greene was introduced to the crowd. The gold-medal hero of the World Athletics Championships could teach his Swans a few things about clearing hurdles. The first thing one needs to ensure is that one doesn't stumble in the first few yards.

Swansea did exactly that, Ryan Giggs setting up Javier Hernandez in the 11th minute. It must be presumed the 37-year-old rather enjoyed capitalising on Angel Rangel's howler before those quick, cultured feet made the space and presented the Mexican with a tap-in. Giggs is an avowed Cardiff City follower. "Blame me for that goal," said Rodgers. "I told the players to play and Angel tried to play it out of defence. He could have smashed it upfield."

Rodgers maintained his side would stick to their natural, freeflowing style which has earned them so many plaudits and after 22 minutes their adventure merited an equaliser.

Scott Sinclair will always wonder how the ball became tangled under his laces as the net gaped. Wayne Routledge's cross deserved better. "They put their chance away, we didn't," said Rodgers. "For Scott that was a pretty simple opportunity. He is bitterly disappointed, but you must look at the ground he made up to get there."

Certainly it was anything but straightforward for United. Swansea's passing had been familiarly crisp – with Leon Britton to the fore – but Rodgers sought to give it yet more crunch with the introduction of Joe Allen at the break. Immediately, Sinclair saw a shot parried away by David De Gea and so the South Walian optimism intensified.

Danny Graham waited for the ball to drop in the area when the volley was the option and on another Nemanja Vidic showed his customary courage to steal the ball off Ashley Williams' boot with his head. Then Graham and Williams both saw shots blocked in another desperate attack. As Ferguson said, the United defence must be credited. Swansea bossed the second half, but, in reality, their chances were kept to the minimum. "We had a wake-up call a few weeks ago," said Ferguson, referring to that 6-1 humiliation to City. "Our defending has been integral to our success."

Wayne Rooney might even have made it 2-0 with an audacious lob and Nani scraped paint in the final seconds. That would have been too cruel on Swansea.

Swansea City (4-1-4-1): Vorm; Rangel, Monk, Williams, Taylor; Britton; Dyer, Gower (Dobbie, 79), Routledge (Allen, h-t), Sinclair; Graham.

Manchester United (4-4-2): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (F Da Silva, 51); Nani, Carrick, Giggs (Fletcher, 76), Park; Rooney, Hernandez (Valencia, 84).

Referee Mike Dean.

Man of the match Britton (Swansea).

Match rating 6/10.