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

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Life & Style
Wasp factory: 1.3 million examples of the Vespa scooter have been sold in the last decade
motoringIconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books