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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence