This Premier league season is something special – Off season revolved around 3 clubs, 3 managers and 3 players and all eyes were on how, what and when something would give during the opening day – Would Suarez be all bark and no “bite” for Liverpool? Would David Moyes be able to fill in Sir Alex’s shoes? Would Mourinho start his “special one” sound bites again? Would Manchester City shed the “noisy neighbours” tag once more?
Well, some of these questions were answered on Saturday and Sunday evenings (as I write this the Man City game is yet to take place), but I’ll stick to the Swansea vs United game and review it here.
There are no two ways at looking at it – Swansea ARE a tough team. They have been revitalized into a well-organized, well oiled, attacking machine that boasts one of the top five strikers in the Premier League (as per last season’s statistics). Michael Laudrup was a great player and he’s now turning out to be a brilliant manager. Before the start of day’s play Swansea had won all their pre-season “friendlies” and had qualified to the penultimate round of matches to enter the Europa League championships. On the other hand, United had just won 2 of their 7 pre-season encounters, had a new manager after close to 27 years and had made no major signings. Plus, in the Premier League ANY away game is a toughie and United had drawn 1-1 the very same fixture last year. Safe to say, all pressure on the away side for this game.
United fielded a pretty much standard team (4-2-3-1) playing with van Perise up front as the lone striker while Swansea played 4-5-1 with Michu up top. Swansea looked the much better side for the first fifteen to twenty minutes. They had the lion share of possession, pressed United and created one or two sweet chances that went begging. Special mention to Acanas, the new Spanish signing (other than the theatrical “injuries”) as he kept Carrick and Cleverly quiet almost the entire game. United looked solid on the counter and had half-chances of their own (if only Giggsy was ten years younger), but they were few and far between. The commentator summed up what happened in the next few minutes perfectly – “The Premier League is unforgiving”. In all of 2 minutes United had pretty much sealed the game. Against the run of play, Giggs chipped a ball just behind van Persie who was played onside and after the deftest of touches, he volleyed the ball into the back of the net. Typical van Persie goal – pure class. Advantage United. When United smell blood, they usually go for the kill. Evra buoyed by new found energy bombed down the left and dinked a cross in that was not cleared properly by the Swansea defense. Valencia pounced on the loose ball and passed it into the path of an oncoming Welbeck for a simple tap in. 2-0, half time, United were now and for the rest of the game in the driving seat.
Laudrup tried to change things up by bringing on new signing Bony to pair up with Michu but apart from a header from the former going just wide, Vidic and Ferdinand marshalled the defence in perfect tandem and made sure nothing of significance happened attack wise for Swansea. All eyes were now on two men – David Moyes and Wayne Rooney. Two goals in the first half shifted the entire focus of the game from football to men and their egos as columnists in England would describe it. Rooney came on and he played a good professional 30 minutes or so creating an opening with a run for van Persie’s rocket into the net (his second of the night) and a neat pass into Welbeck’s foot for the most audacious, let alone sublime chip I’ve seen from a United striker in quite sometime (he made up for his earlier antics where he gifted Swansea their only goal of the night). From a team point of view Moyes would be very pleased – he won his first competitive Premier League game in charge of Manchester United and also made sure Rooney started (atleast for the time being) the 2013-14 season in a Man United shirt. There’s a lot being said about him not celebrating the goals with his team-mates but frankly speaking that’s a whole lot of speculation and nothing of fact. Rooney put in a good shift, United chalked up an away victory – All’s well that ends well as far as the first game goes for United and Moyes.
The real litmus test however will be next week against Chelsea. With so many of the pre-season subplots intertwining, it’s gonna be one helluva cracker!
Advait is a Biologist from India who is currently doing his Ph.D in Italy. He has been a Manchester United fan from as far back as I can remember(I’ve known him since we were 2).