Van Gaal and United get reality check from Swans

Lethargic United undone by Monk’s men on first day of the season at Old Trafford

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 15:05

Manchester United 1 Swansea City 2

Manchester United began their season with a whimper as Gylfi Sigurdsson gate-crashed Louis van Gaal’s Premier League bow at Old Trafford. New United captain Wayne Rooney thought he had grabbed a point for the hosts with an overhead kick following Ki Sung-yueng’s opener, but Sigurdsson, making his second debut for the Swans, beat David De Gea from 15 yards to give Garry Monk’s team a 2-1 win.

Van Gaal said going into the match he was not nervous about the task of bringing the glory days back to Old Trafford following last year’s dismal showing under David Moyes. But the Dutchman will surely have reservations about his squad’s ability having seen what transpired during his first taste of Premier League action.

Moyes may have gone, but the same problems remain for United. They lacked a cutting edge up front and their passing was sloppy at times. The main concern for Van Gaal will be in defence. Both Sigurdsson and Ki were unmarked when they beat De Gea. There was a clear lack of organisation at times, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both looking out of their comfort zone on several occasions thanks to Swansea’s enterprising play and neat passing.

United were crying out for the experienced heads they lost this summer. The defeat to Swansea, who are among the favourites to go down, suggests Van Gaal desperately needs defensive reinforcements, and the quicker he moves in the transfer market, the better.

A wave of noise greeted Van Gaal and his players as they emerged from the tunnel to signal the start of a new chapter in United’s rich history. Any of the 75,339 fans inside Old Trafford expecting a lightning start to this Premier League season were left disappointed as a dull opening 15 minutes ensued. Swansea did manage to test United’s new-look three-man defence on a couple of occasions. Wayne Routledge raced on to Jonjo Shelvey’s throughball, but David De Gea came to the rescue.

Routledge then gave Jones the slip down United’s right, but his cross was cut out just before Wilfried Bony could convert. Rooney led by example as he tried to drag United into the game. The new United captain tore around the pitch, but his two first-half attempts on goal were weak. Jesse Lingard, making his full United debut, was replaced by Adnan Januzaj after injuring his right foot in a challenge with Ashley Williams.

Finally, with 24 minutes on the clock, Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was tested for the first time when he saved Jones’ blistering shot after a clever one-two with Juan Mata. Then, four minutes later, Old Trafford fell silent as Swansea took the lead.

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