Manchester United vs Swansea match report: Disaster strikes early as Louis van Gaal sees scale of task ahead

Manchester United 1 Swansea 2: Dutch manager realises the size of his rebuilding task as injury-hit United lacking leadership succumb to a first opening-day home loss since 1972

Old Trafford

Anybody wondering about the scale of Louis van Gaal’s rebuilding job at Manchester United had their question answered in stark fashion at Old Trafford yesterday. The crumbling of the old empire under David Moyes last season was writ large by seven home defeats, and Swansea City’s victory yesterday underlined that the old fear factor is not going to return overnight.

Swansea had never won at United prior to January’s triumph in the FA Cup third round, and in repeating the feat yesterday they handed their hosts a first opening-day home loss since 1972.

There were cheeky chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” from the away supporters when Swansea took a first half lead through Ki Sung-Yueng, and although Van Gaal’s half-time tactical switch – from three at the back to a back four – prompted an improvement, with Wayne Rooney equalising, Swansea exploited the lack of authority at the heart of this United side with a second goal, from Gylfi Sigurdsson, with 18 minutes remaining.

United had a 100 per cent record in pre-season, but this performance was a more accurate measure of Van Gaal’s task. The evidence of yesterday’s game suggests the only silverware Old Trafford regulars will see this season is the Open trophy that golfer Rory McIlroy (right) displayed at half-time.

 

With Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand all gone, United lacked leadership at the back, and looked anaemic in midfield, despite the injection of Ander Herrera. “I know in what positions we need better players,” said the Dutchman afterwards and United, who have so far only signed Herrera and Luke Shaw, will have to act fast.

Van Gaal spoke in his programme notes of the sheer size of United – “I always knew this was a big club but it was incredible to witness,” he said of the attendances on their US tour – but yesterday they had the look of a very ordinary team. In mitigation, Van Gaal was missing a notable list of senior players – starting with Robin van Persie and full-back Shaw and running through Antonio Valencia, Jonny Evans, Michael Carrick, Danny Welbeck – and it is worth noting also that first appearances can be deceptive. Moyes beat Swansea in his first game 12 months ago; Sir Alex Ferguson lost at Oxford in his.

Read more: United hand shock debut to Blackett - who is he?
Young catches bird droppings in mouth while shouting at defence
Rooney has attributes to be a great leader, says Neville

Perhaps the biggest positive was Van Gaal’s his willingness to give young players their opportunity. His first line-up featured a goalkeeper and three centre-backs all aged 24 or under – Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and the 20-year-old Tyler Blackett, one of two homegrown debutants along with Jesse Lingard. Lingard occupied a wing-back role on the opposite flank to Ashley Young, yet lasted only 24 minutes before hurting his knee in a challenge with Ashley Williams. Van Gaal suggested afterwards that too many players looked “nervous”, and United’s defending was certainly awry when the South Korean mid-fielder Ki, back at Swansea after a season’s loan at Sunderland, put the visitors ahead with a precise finish after 28 minutes.

Van Gaal was left to reflect on an opening day defeat Van Gaal was left to reflect on an opening day defeat He was given too much time and space on the edge of the box and took full advantage, beating De Gea low to the Spaniard’s left.

With United lacking pace and thrust down the flanks, the only first-half save that Swansea’s new goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianksi, had to make came when Jones came strode forward on a nice interchange with Juan Mata and his attempted cross almost caught out the Pole at his near post. Indeed, two of the biggest cheers of the half came when referee Mike Dean pulled out his can of free-kick vanishing spray.

Rooney fired in a close-range bicycle kick to level the scores Rooney fired in a close-range bicycle kick to level the scores Van Gaal had not stirred from his seat but acted decisively at half-time, sending on Nani for Javier Hernandez and switching from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1. “[In] the first half we were not playing very well and were behind; that is why I changed the system, and this system they have played always in Manchester United,” he said. Van Gaal praised his players’ effort too, but added that it was important “not only running but also using your brain and then you can play like a team, and in that we have failed today”.

Briefly it looked as though this switch would bear fruit when Rooney equalised with an acrobatic overhead finish after Jones had flicked on Mata’s corner. The new club captain then turned Williams superbly inside the box only to be foiled by an equally good recovering tackle by the Swansea skipper. Rooney came even closer when clipping the outside of the left-hand post with a 20-yard free-kick.

Ki and Sigurdsson celebrated after the final whistle after giving the Swans a memorable victory Ki and Sigurdsson celebrated after the final whistle after giving the Swans a memorable victory Instead Swansea struck with a goal United’s defenders will not enjoy reviewing. Substitute Jefferson Montero got the better of Smalling on the left and crossed to the far post, where Young let the ball drop behind him. Routledge, lurking beyond the far post, drove it back across goal for Sigurdsson to finish.

“Gylfi had a good game, and the way Ashley defended is why he is our captain and our leader, but I cannot single out players because of the effort of the whole team,” said Garry Monk, the Swansea manager. “We limited United to few chances.”

Indeed Swansea might have had a third goal as their substitute Bafe Gomis burst through only to be denied by a last-ditch challenge from Jones.

By that stage, Van Gaal will surely have seen enough.

Line-ups:

Manchester Utd (3-4-1-2): De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Blackett; Lingard (Januzaj, 24), Fletcher, Herrera (Fellaini, 67), Young; Mata; Hernandez (Nani, 46), Rooney.

Swansea (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor (Tiendalli, 53); Ki, Shelvey; Dyer (Montero, 67), Sigurdsson, Routledge; Bony (Gomis, 77).

Referee: Mike Dean.

Man of the match: Ashley Williams (Swansea)

Match rating: 6/10

Suggested Topics
News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
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

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes