Manchester United 2 Swansea City 0 match report: Antonio Valencia steers United out of barren run

Ecuadorean winger follows up saved header to break the deadlock and Welbeck adds a second to ease the pressure on the United manager as Swansea misfire again

Old Trafford

There was some love for David Moyes; exhortations to give the Stretford End a wave – which he complied with – and none of the encouragement of his players to “play like Fergie's boys”. Perhaps, after all that he has been through this wretched winter, Manchester United are learning that it is time to put the legend in the past and liberate Moyes to travel on alone.

There was a noticeable lack of celebration from the manager when his side went ahead, and still none when they doubled the lead – the signs of an individual who has already seen too many false dawns in the course of these six difficult months and who knows that Chelsea lie in wait for them in only six days' time.

It is part of the incredible nature of the roller-coaster ride United are on at the moment that a day he began in a searing spotlight ended with his fifth win in six Premier League games.

There remains a profound sense of perspective among the fans. The results of a poll by the Red Issue fanzine revealed only 7.26 per cent to be of the view that Moyes should be dismissed now, with 19.76 per cent thinking that he should be given until the end of the season to begin delivering and a full 72.98 per cent believing that the fruits of next season are the earliest upon which he can be judged.

 

In the here and now, Moyes possessed a team who for 45 minutes were pretty much on a level with Swansea. Yet the weight of 53 years' history – the period since they last lost four consecutive games in one season – did not seem to inhibit them and what unfolded as they went about their task was the moderately good United, which is better than the second-speed alternative.

Then Moyes made the switch which allowed Adnan Januzaj – the jewel in the crown for them, week after week – to turn the match, freeing him behind the striker to the left, from where he supplied United's first goal and was instrumental in their second, by seizing possession.

"He has been like that since day one," Moyes said of Januzaj. "I speak to him a lot and he tells me he could play everywhere, he would have no problem, he's not a nervous boy. He needs teaching and understanding because he is still learning. But his talent and natural ability is up there with the best. In time he will prove to be that."

He was a danger wherever Moyes billeted him, first curling an 11th-minute effort which hammered against Gerhard Tremmel's crossbar and then contributing to a fleeting flash of the imperious United of old after 36 minutes, when a flowing move down the right flank saw Antonio Valencia and Rafael ship the ball through to the advancing Danny Welbeck. Angel Rangel was in attendance as the striker shaped to strike it but it was a criminal miss when he sent the ball inches wide of Tremmel's right post.

United struggled for a conduit to knit play together. Shinji Kagawa's touch and anticipation was simply not there in the wide role – he has been a terrible disappointment this season – while Swansea's Jonjo Shelvey was in a different kind of class. Confident and intelligent, as he has been all season, Shelvey contributed to the sense that the visiting team were quite capable of striking the first blow.

In the central midfield space, Leon Britton for a time got the better of Darren Fletcher, starting his first home Premier League game since victory over Queen's Park Rangers in November 2012, and the Spaniard Alejandro Pozuelo's pace exposed Patrice Evra.

The manager said he had deployed Januzaj behind the striker "to see if it would give us any more creativity, any more positions, help us". But he took only two minutes after the break to supply from the wide position, whipping the cross which Kagawa got a header on to, with Valencia present to tap in the rebound.

The goal seemed to breathe some belief into Moyes' players. Kagawa advanced into the penalty area and took a tilt as Swansea's defence began to look very vulnerable. Luck materialised where it had been missing, too. The second goal came when an Evra miskick into the box was flicked in by Welbeck.

That United did not find a third soon after was down to the miss of this Old Trafford season. Kagawa swung in a dangerous cross which Chris Smalling – whose finishing is often questionable – somehow managed to spear over the bar from two yards out.

Kagawa was also to prove negligent 10 minutes later after a beautiful ball by Januzaj from deep sent Rafael off down the left with Swansea seriously stretched. The Japanese forward advanced around the defender and Tremmel's vital touch slowed the ball for Britton to clear off the line.

"I expected a Manchester United team very, very focused after all that's happened, been written, been said," observed the Swansea manager Michael Laudrup. In the final reckoning Moyes' team delivered against that expectation.

Line-ups:

Manchester Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra (Büttner, 79); Carrick, Fletcher; Valencia, Kagawa, Januzaj; Welbeck (Hernandez, 86).

Swansea City (4-2-3-1): Tremmel; Rangel, Amat, Williams, Davies; Britton,Canas (Chico, 17); Pozuelo, Shelvey (Alvaro, 63), Routledge. Bony.

Referee: Chris Foy.

Man of the match: Januzaj (Manchester United)

Match rating: 6/10

Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness