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

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits