Swansea 1-1 Man United: the good, the bad, and the Carrick

Ashley Youn against Swansea

Ashley Young against Swansea

Author: Sleepy Nik and Doron

Follow Sleepy Nik and Doron on Twitter

The busy festive spell kicked off with arguably the hardest fixture of the lot – a trip to south Wales to take on one of the league’s leakiest home defences. Swansea are in the gabble of teams who are nicely above the relegation spots and just a few points off Europe despite being in the bottom half of the table. United were guaranteed to be top before kick off but with City’s late winner yesterday, only a win would do. We welcome comments from both sets of supporters.

Captain returns but it’s as you were ahead of him

Arguably, one of the key factors in being successful is using a full squad throughout a season and managing players through patches of good and bad form. Rotating is one of Fergie’s favourite things to do (and he’s quite good at it) but there’s also a skill in consistency when things are clicking. It was therefore a welcomed sight to see the same front six for the third successive game – the players that have played some exciting football against Man City and Sunderland. With changes certain to be made over the next couple of games, picking a strong and winning group of players for this, possibly the hardest of the games, was a good decision.

The fitness statuses of Smalling and Ferdinand are unclear with both not included in the 18 but Vidic made his first start since September alongside Evans. Unsurprisingly, Vidic was solid when the ball was played in the air but otherwise he looked sluggish. His return from the start was never going to be perfect after missing so much football but one has to wonder if he’d have been better on the bench, unless of course his selection was forced by injury to others. He was one of a couple of players at fault for the Swansea equaliser as he played a bad offside line and in the first half in particular, he was given the run around by Michu (who was generally on the periphery of the game). Still, good to have Vidic back. (Equally pleasing to see de Gea keep his place in goal too).

The equaliser and how Wilkins and Yorke might have reflected

The equalising goal is a complex one to analyse because everything Swansea tried to achieve, was achieved; and everything United could have done to prevent it, simply didn’t occur. Firstly you had de Guzman picking up the ball in the centre without too much pressure; he then finds the clever Routledge who had come into a central position, dragging Evans with him in doing so. This is the main contribution to the lapses that ensue.

By this time Rooney should really have anticipated the one-two between Routledge and Agustien, as he casually jogs back, without pressing space in front of Agustien. With Carrick now out of the game, Cleverley – who had showed naivety in defensive positions all game – should really have retreated into a deep position to aid Evans and Vidic, but instead he is keeping an eye out for ‘his man’ in the game (the stagnant Britton). Michu holds his position well in front of Vidic, whilst Jonny is tracking Routledge after he has released the initial ball. Carrick allows de Guzman to drift by him at precisely the same time that Dyer makes a diagonal towards Evra, who then immediately spins off the Frenchman, vacating the space in a dart towards the touchline – ensuring that Evra initially attempts to follow him back out. Evans seems to see everything in slow-motion as he signals to Vidic to get over to the late runner (de Guzman), and in trying to press Michu, allows Routledge to be completely free – who proceeds to play the exquisite first time pass into the Dtuchman’s path. The United captain is slow to react, and in an instant Michu converts the rebound to make it 1-1.

A superbly worked goal then, which no doubt could have been prevented on another occasion (and sadly typical of the season to date), but in these scenarios the credit must go to the attacking team.

Swansea’s fortune

That’s not intended to disrespect the performance that Swansea put in but this was a game they shouldn’t have won. Up until their equaliser they had been predominantly on the back foot. The goal itself, a nice move, was rightly angered United fans, players and staff. Van Persie is clearly hauled down just 20 seconds before Swansea end up scoring – a frustrating decision given that fouls were indeed later given for almost identical incidents. Still, having scored, Swansea were then excellent for the remainder of the first half and looked to be the more dangerous of the two sides.

Fortune continued to go against United in the second half. Fine margins kept the scoreline at 1-1 as twice United hit the bar, once via the fingertips of Vorm. A strong penalty appeal was turned down for a handball but replays suggest that whilst it hit an arm, the player hadn’t moved it into an unnatural position. The decision that’ll have people talking (thanks to Fergie’s post-match comments) was Williams on van Persie. Williams attempts to clear the ball and manages to hit it straight into van Persie’s head (he was lying on the floor less than a yard away). Whether Williams means it or not is up for debate but he’s looking down and certainly slices the ball (purposely?) rather than clear it directly up the pitch. If he means it, and there’s a good chance it’ll be interpreted that way, one wonders if Williams may face additional punishment as it was certainly dangerous play and had the potential to seriously injure van Persie’s neck.

Consistent Carrick

It’s almost become boring to wax lyrical about Carrick these days as his performances are so consistent that it could be done every week. Whilst he made key defensive tackles and interceptions, today was all about his ability to pass and more specifically, forwards. In what’s a side that’s probably lacking a real top quality central midfielder, United are lucky to have Carrick. Alongside Cleverley, who looked a tad jaded and in need of a rest, he was outstanding. Whether long or short, he was picking passes out for fun. It’s only when you watch Carrick closely that you notice that he’ll only ever pass backwards or sideways if he can’t go forwards – at times he’ll even hold on to the ball and try to make space for himself so he can play the ball in a positive direction.

It’s worrying that there are still groups of United’s support who fail to see what it is that Carrick does and that he’s most certainly not the problem. It’s been suggest that his importance even draws parallels with Roy Keane in that respect. The returns of Kagawa and Anderson are very much needed with Cleverley needing to be used sensibly and Fletcher and Scholes not offering the same amount of enduring energy throughout a game.

(Further reading on Carrick’s performance here.)

Below-par performers

In a team that often boasts so many good performers, it’s often easier to pick out those who haven’t played as well. When United fail to win, this is most certainly the case. In this instance two players were, by popular consensus, more culpable than others.

Antonio Valencia’s form is a mystery. It’s very tricky to identify a game he’s actually played well in this season and this has been matched by spells out of the side with a mystery injury that doesn’t seem to go away. It may even be as simple as a confidence issue but for whatever reason he’s playing as if he’s even more limited than he already is. An unwillingness to take a man on or got a good cross in early is thwarting United who so often look to the right hand side for inspiration. Nani’s absence through injury and the club’s decision to go into a season with just three wingers hasn’t helped – it means Valencia is being forced to play when with more options he’d probably be benched for his and the team’s own good.

The other player to get his fair share of stick from the United fans was Rooney. As one of the best and most important players at the club – he gets criticism seemingly more than any other player because expectation levels are so high (and the infamous contract incident). He was well below what one would hope to see from him – a combination of touch, passing and general carelessness in decision making let him down. Still, he was working hard and trying to get in the right places at either end of the pitch but it was one of those games for him where nothing game off and ultimately it was hard to argue with his substitution. Rooney’s been good recently but don’t let that get in the way of some good anger aimed in his direction!

Meanwhile, Rooney’s replacement, Giggs, provided a wonderfully entertaining cameo of skill and passing. Maybe this had something to do with his deployment on the wing rather than in the middle but it was impressive for any player, let alone a 39 year old.


A first draw since the infamous 4-4 against Everton back in April won’t be greeted with much joy. Whilst United have gone on to win games they probably should have drawn this season, this was one they most certainly should have won. Surprisingly, Fergie wasn’t critical of United and instead, whilst clearly disappointed, struggled to come to terms with how United hadn’t won after “battering” Swansea (true for all but a twenty minute period).

United were given the lead by an unlikely but ever more likely source – an Evra header from a corner. Van Persie’s delivery was excellent and indeed Carrick could have scored in the second half when his header from a corner hit the bar. Swansea were level less than 15 minutes later as Michu scored to become the league’s outright top scorer. Despite bombarding Swansea’s goal in the second half United couldn’t find a way past Vorm and at times had only themselves to blame for some odd decision making.

Still, with two home games up next, United could and should finish up the year on top with at least a four point lead. It’s Newcastle on Wednesday and with just two wins in their last twelve games, United must fancy their chances…

33 Comments on Swansea 1-1 Man United: the good, the bad, and the Carrick

  1. Would it be juvenile of me to point out that AshleyBloodyYoung had THREE point blank shots on goal and scored none – or that he has yet to score one goal so far this season ? (I only mention this because you did not mention him in your post-match report.)

  2. @Denton Davey – with all due respect, we try not to make this a match report. Firstly, they’re dull to read; secondly, most of us watched the game anyway; and thirdly, we can’t mention every single thing – hence we try to pick certain bits from the game and create discussions around them. So yes, we are going to miss out some bits! (And, I thought Young was alright)

  3. 2 points to make … Evra’s laziness disgraceful for their goal
    Can’t understand how fergie tolerates him for so long
    Secondly Michael Carrick is a solid footballer but that’s it how u can compare him to keano is taking the piss

  4. Cant be underestimated the influence RVP has had on our set pieces, particularly corners. We’ve scored so many key goals this season direct from corners and freekicks! When we have been used to watching Giggs and Nani’s flimsy ankles be unable to beat the first man for the past 5 years, it really is good to see.
    All round, I thought we did alright today, should have won the game, but generally didnt create anywhere near enough chances. There’s no doubt we’re missing some spark from the wings. We’re missing Nani of 2 years ago, he was our best player then, and was always a threat. Young is alright, but will never be better than that. Tony looks injured to me, dont know why he wont take anyone on. If we sell Nani in Jan, we MUST replace him with a quality left footed winger, or buy back Ronaldo 🙂

  5. NameOnTheTrophy @ 5:36: “I thought Young was alright”.

    AshleyBloodyYoung was “alright” EXCEPT when it mattered.

    THREE POINT-BLANK CHANCES but no goals. If that’s “alright” then gimme strength.

    Tom @ 8:54: ” If we sell Nani in Jan, we MUST replace him with a quality left footed winger, or buy back Ronaldo”

    Don’t hold your breath. Although maybe he’s had another “dream” ?

    What do you reckon UTD could offer RM ? 50 million Euros in addition to Chicharito and Nani; they’d laugh but they might not get a better offer. I guess that the money-men @ MUFC might think that CR7 could negotiate a big fee for his “image rights” but, in reality, CR7 is waaaaaaay too expensive in terms of BOTH wages AND transfer fee.

  6. Denton Dave i agree with you,young’s crap and carrick similar, giggs now a joke, fergie keeps him another season, then fergie should go!

  7. Good write up guys as always. I think United were extremely flat once Swansea got the equalizer, even though there was only one team in the second half. Rooney had a stinker, as all players do, but its unfortunate that no one else could step up and take responsibility.

    Carrick was superb. He has many games like this that go unnoticed. If people want to slate him off, thats fine, but he has been one of Fergie’s best signings since 2006.

    Williams knew exactly what he was doing, but will of course plead his innocence. I’ve used this example of Twitter, but Dennis Wise once picked up Nicky Butt with his armpit hair. Butt reacted (which was the intention of Wise) and was sent off. Its not right, but there are things players do in football to get a reaction. Could he have ‘been killed’? I don’t think so, but I’m no expert in potential sporting injuries.

    A point isn’t the end of the world by any means, however – United probably should have got three points despite playing below par. Swansea played some great football at times as well.

  8. @denton davey – you can’t just single out Young and not others. Despite the fact United fans have never warmed to Young, he’s been playing well lately. Certainly wouldn’t be the player I’d have thought would get the brunt of any post-match frustrations.

  9. @karl – if he keeps Giggs on and plays him regularly then it’s odd but given that he’s not playing often this season I can’t see him playing any more regularly next year. As for Young and Carrick being crap – it’s just nonsense.

  10. I respect you guys, given the amount of United football you watch but can’t agree with your assessment of Carrick.

    He has to be the most ‘anonymously’ brilliant player in world football. The school of thought that if you can’t see it you just aren’t watching closely enough can become a little patronising.

    I think it is possible for everyone to see what Carrick does but I think there is major disagreement about the value that that role has in the side. Yes he keeps the ball moving and that has some merit but his anonymity is part of the issue. Time and time again he dumped the ball off to Evans et al., took a couple of paces back and then expected them to do one of the jobs he is in the side for.

    The reason he isn’t rated by a large proportion of people watching United is that he isn’t that good. A solid pro, who does little wrong but doesn’t make a difference when it matters most. The Keane comparison is, to say the least, a little wide of the mark.

    Keep the columns coming.

  11. @Niall – that’s fair enough but re-watch the game yesterday. I don’t like reverting to stats but two thirds of his passes went forwards. Watch to see that every time he got the ball he tries to get it up to one of the strikers as soon as possible and if he can’t, he’ll play it off to someone else.

    I can understand why people think he’s anonymous and I daresay that if he went to ground to tackle more often, people would love him like they do Jones, but he’s not that kind of player. He reads the game so well that he’s so often in the right place.

    I guess the only way his value can be truly appreciated is if United don’t have him for a few games. I suspect there’s no one else in our squad who can do his job.

    As for the Keane comparison, you have to actually read the piece on Keane and Carrick to see it’s not a literal comparison as that would be wide of the mark.

  12. @Niall.

    Thanks for commenting on the blog and its great that we get a difference of opinion about matters such as Carrick.

    Firstly, Roy Keane was a much more influential player for United than Michael Carrick. He was the heartbeat of the team for over decade. But he was more influential for United than most players I’ve ever seen at any club. So I think sometimes judgement gets lost based upon his leadership, box to box (would he be playing as he did in 93/94 nowadays?) and fearless tackling.

    I disagree with the verdict that “he isn’t that good”, what did you think of him yesterday? He was knocking the ball around for fun. He needs movement in front of him to be able to pick those passes. Can I just ask, how do you feel he compares to Xabi Alonso or Andrea Pirlo over the past ten years?

  13. Hi guys good read, the 1 thing that i find frustrating about Carrick is his lack of demanding the ball. He never seems to make a 5 yard burst into space between opponents to recieve a pass, he likes to sometimes just point for the wide player etc. to play the ball back to the CB’s. This making the team have to start the biuld up all over again, wheras if he made that run we wud havr taken a couple of opponents out of position and be moving forward. I know sometimes you need to be patient and start the attack over again but thers sometimes you have to be a bit more relentless.. What do you all think?

  14. My twopence –
    I was extremely pleased to come across a piece finally highlighting the Geordie’s talent. I’m not one for getting emotional but he has certainly been arguably our best and if you think that’s too much, our most consistent player this season. For a central midfielder, that’s what you prize most of all and it’s a reason he has remained a crucial cog in our team for the last 6 years.
    People like to compare him to Roy Keane, same as they do Nani to Ronaldo, but the sooner you realise the different virtues they bring to your team, the better. Carrick will not pick up red cards for fun and bans which have potentially devastating long term consequences for the team. He’s calm, one of the calmest under pressure, makes the right decisions, his positioning and reading of the play are exquisite. I point to a game in which his body language alone illustrated that he knew he wasn’t having his best of games – our recent Derby win over Shifty. He still played a role in intercepting and tackling, crucial for that 1 in 50 game where his passing is off. Don’t forget that he will play these passes bang into feet off his left or right from 30 or 40 yards, always looking to be positive but never forcing it.
    As for how he compares with Pirlo, let’s say his Englishness works against him. After all, Italy and Spain are the two most recent winners of the biggest international tournament in the world and they have a historic affiliation with technical players who capture our imagination with their seemingly unique technical qualities. Carrick, along with those two, has been the best centre mid in Europe over the last 6 years (not counting Barcelona’s 3 – they’re extraterrestria)

    His record of 3 Champions League finals (winning one) certainly compares favourably with Pirlo’s (3 finals, won 2) and Alonso’s (2 finals, won 1). Also, his league record is par or even better and you have to remember that he has always been central. Andrea Pirlo, for all his talents, had a shifty couple of years at Milan. Xabi Alonso was at Liverpool…don’t need to say more.

    Enjoy Carrick. Like Ibra, he’s getting better with age and for a centre mid, that is something to cherish

  15. Gpod article, I agree about Carrick,I thought he was motm. He never stops, he doesn’t have dodgy games, like Rooney does, he’s our most consistent player the last few years. As for Evra, I think you’re being very lenient on him for their goal, the player runs right past him and there’s no reaction, he rarely tucks in and many a time his excuse is that he was marking his man. He’s a selfish defender and while he has slightly improved in the last few weeks he’s nowhere near his best, just look at the flick he tried late on which gave away possession cheaply, we need to buy Baines!

  16. @Curtis – I think that’s a tad unfair. As he’s often the deepest midfielder, it’s not really in his remit to make runs forward (in fact I’m sure Fergie has talked about using him and keeping him in an anchoring role). As noted in this and other pieces, not only did two thirds of his passes go forwards yesterday but he’s played more forwards passes than any other player in the league. He played some cracking balls yesterday, this is just one example – http://i.minus.com/izK2T0BCHp2sH.gif

  17. Not a bad article and pretty accurate aprt from one or two ares. Firstly RVP was not hauled down, he’s backing in and Flores holds his ground whildt trying to get the ball. yes he helped RVP on way down but you clutching at straws if this uis the reason for the goal as you had ample opportunity to stop the susequent move.

    Secondly Williams shouldn’t face any further punsihemnt he is in the process of clearing the ball and cannot stop his intention to do so as the whistle blows. If there is any further punshment it should be on Ferguson for his inflammotory game into disrepute comments.

    Finally nobody mentions the supposed obstruction of Evans by Michu stopping De guzman from scoring. Evans got it wrong and ran into Michu, got the decision. Nobody mentions this because of the overtop reaction by everyone to Fergusons tirade

  18. @Swansea Jack – fair enough stuff. RE Michu and Evans – thought that one was cleared up in the game. Michu knows what he’s doing and moves away from the ball to stand his ground and block Evans. Soft? Yes. Foul? Yes.

  19. I haven’t seen a chart of the Swansea passes, but I think they built about 30 attacks aimed at Evra and possibly 0 at Jones. Jones is only a moderately capable full-back, so what does this tell you about Laudrup’s assessment of our team?

  20. @nameonthetrophy

    You mention that his true value can only be evaluated if he isn’t is the side. I have a slightly different angle on that. If United struggle because he isn’t in the side, is that because he is that influential or because of a lack of competition for that role in the side?

    It isn’t his fault that he hasn’t been pushed by up and coming or purchase players in the last decade.


    Carrick did very little wrong yesterday which obviously has to be the starting point for any player in his position. I haven’t looked back over the game but in my opinion, in the final third of the game, I don’t think he demanded the ball enough. He shouldn’t be leaving attempts at incisive passing to defenders. If they feel that they have to try and make that pass, then I think he isn’t doing his job.

    I think that if he is to be lauded for his excellence I think he has to do more than being consistent. I don’t care if only one of tens passes goes forward as long as they make an impact. In a 1-1 draw against a team like Swansea, I think he has to be held as responsible as all other players for two dropped points.

    If we step outside of club football and look at the International game, I just don’t think it is credible that any International set up would ignore a midfielder of his supposed quality if he is of the standard of Pirlo or Alonso – they just couldn’t afford to. I am not English so don’t have any particular biases in terms of current managers, set ups, allegiances etc. I think the reasons he hasn’t been a central role in a series of International teams is because he isn’t that influential.

  21. @Niall – or Fergie’s not tried to replace him because he’s perfectly happy with him! Competition or no competition, that doesn’t make him a good or bad player. He’s a good player who is so unbelievably key to United.

  22. @Nameonthetrophy

    I never have a problem with his passing as the stats show he is a great passer. Also an anchor midfielder yes, but a 5 yard burst into space isnt stopping him from fulfilling his anchor roll, and it would help the team a whole lot more if he did this as he would be a lot more effective in my opinion. I think people like to look at his stats of passisng accuracy/ passing distribution and not want to be critical of him because of those stats. There is just a few tweaks he could make to his game that would make him the almost complete center midfielder. And making space to recieve the ball amd demanding the ball are small things that would help this, instead of hiding behind an opponent and pointing for the teammate to pass it to the CB. This i dont think is harsh

  23. Nameonthetrophy @ 5:13: “you can’t just single out Young and not others”

    “I do what I want”

    My first mention of AshleyBloodyYoung was in relation to your omission of his point-blank misses – and he missed three times. You then said that he was “alright”. I beg to differ – missing three times with point-blank opportunities is simply not good enough.

    Whether Mr Young is “alright” is essentially beside-the-point. It’s all about results. Think about what happened when Dimmy missed twice against ManShitty in the FACup semi-final in 2011 – the guy got frozen out and was not even on the bench for the CL final against Barcelona @ Wembley.

    Of course other players were off-the-boil yesterday. TheWayneBoy is notoriously inconsistent – that means he can be like the little girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead: sometimes he’s very, very good but sometimes he’s horrid. Yesterday he was horrid.

    But not even TheWayneBoy missed THREE point-blank shots at goal. Rooney fucked up further up=field where his mistakes were somewhat less costly. “somewhat” being the operative word.

  24. Niall @ 8:02: “Carrick did very little wrong yesterday which obviously has to be the starting point for any player in his position. I haven’t looked back over the game but in my opinion, in the final third of the game, I don’t think he demanded the ball enough.”

    OK – I’ll bite.

    Who supplied the wonderful through ball that AshleyBloodyYoung shot right at the Swansea keeper in the first part of the match yesterday ?

    Over the past calendar year – and even before – whenever SAF has chosen a Carrick/Scholes combination in midfield MC16 has had to be TheGingerNinja’s “minder”. MC16 does much more attacking/forward-play when he’s not partnered with Paul Scholes.

  25. It really is laughable that our two most consistent players of the last 6 years, Evra and Carrick, are continually unappreciated – and taunted – by blog readers here.

  26. @nameonthetrophy 8:04

    I know some of SAF’s midfield decisions have been a bit mysterious at times, but are you suggesting he is that good that SAF hasn’t tried to or felt the need to have more competition in that position for the last decade?

    @Denton Davey 9:08

    The clue is in the quotation – “in the final third of the game’ not “in the first part of the match”. When the pressure was on to unlock Swansea I don’t think he demanded enough of the ball. I don’t think Scholes has been sufficiently present in the last three years to use him as a rationale for Carrick’s lack of incisiveness.

    Anyway, an interesting debate that will run and run. I hope he gets plenty of opportunities in the coming months to prove me wrong.

  27. @Niall – everyone knows we need a CM but I’d suggest the problem is finding a partner for Carrick rather than replacing him. As for why we’ve not strengthened in that area, your guess is as good as mine but it’s pretty clear how highly he values Carrick.

  28. Niall @ 9:44: “an interesting debate that will run and run. I hope he gets plenty of opportunities in the coming months to prove me wrong.”

    Yeah; I’d be happy if AshleyBloodyYoung could prove me wrong, too. Especially with Anderson hurt almost all the time, Nani in SAF’s doghouse, and AV7 proving to be out-of-sorts. My big hope for the coming months is the return of KagawaBunga and a more compact attacking diamond. I’d also like to see Chicharito get more playing time so that KagawaBunga, TheWayneBoy, and RVP can play in a “floating diamond” behind the Mexicutioner. Playing Chicharito forces the opposition defence to play a “low line” (as opposed to a “high line”) and that would give the three behind him lots of space.

  29. Nameonthetrophy @ 9:45: ” it’s pretty clear how highly he values Carrick.”

    Why not ? MC16 has been the glue that’s held the team together – he’s not flashy, he’s not boisterous, he’s not fiery, he’s just quietly efficient. Besides, the ideal partner for him is already @ OT – BUT Anderson is, unfortunately, almost-always injured.

  30. @swansea jack –
    I disagree with you about Williams. If that’s not intentional, that’s recklessness bordering on intent. Van persie’s head is close enough for him to realise that he is going to make a connection. I don’t buy that he was in the process of clearing the ball. I have pulled out of clearances before; players do. It’s coming from the player who said a few suspect words about Luis Suarez btw.

  31. We won how many league titles and champion league since Carrick arrived? He will continue to be underrated but I will always feel secure whenever he play for United.

  32. Well Lordy, Lordy, Carrick has rediscovered the forward pass. Much better. I’d given up all hope. Does wonders for the flow of the game and chances of capitalizing on possession. Still glad Scholes is on hand when things get tough. Still wondering why we didn’t snatch up Dembele.

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