The hope and promise of a new era came crashing down within ninety minutes as a lacklustre Manchester United lost 2-1 at home to Swansea City. Louis van Gaal oversaw United’s first home defeat in the league since 1972 in what was also his home competitive debut. United rarely troubled the visitors, whilst Swansea looked dangerous on the break. United started the game 3-4-1-2 but shifted to 4-4-1-1 in the second half with Hernandez, who looks as if he may have played his last game for Manchester United, being replaced by the ineffective Nani.
Transition takes time. Louis van Gaal is a World Class manager who will have an impact at Old Trafford, but it will indeed take some time to instil a philosophy and way of playing into a side that is crying out for leadership. The Dutchman was quick to state that he feels he was responsible for the defeat and the loss has ‘smashed’ the confidence of the players – however, this will surely heap more pressure on Edward Woodward regarding new signings.
Here we discuss the Talking Points from the game and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
New signings needed
Some would argue that United have already spent big this summer, recruiting Luke Shaw – who is out for an other three weeks, and industrious Ander Herrera for nearly £50million. In theory, United should have brought in Herrera last summer following the ludicrous pursuit of the then Bilbao player and this is doesn’t take into account that the club has lost the experience of Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and more importantly Nemanja Vidic.
In Vidic, I don’t think I have ever seen a player win so many headers – both defensively and offensively. When United had a freekick in wide areas yesterday, without Vidic, you would have assumed even before being swung in by the left boot of Juan Mata that United would struggle to convert. He may be in the autumn years of his career, but his influence, aerial ability and mere presence is still massive loss to the club. Manchester United have been linked to many players this summer. Most noticeably, Arturo Vidal, Angel Di Maria and now Marcos Rojo. You could argue that the squad actually could do with the quality all three players – especially considering the signing of Mat Hummels is now considering outside the realms of possibility.
This United squad needs an injection of quality. There is no question of that. It is still unclear as to what will happened with Shinji Kagawa, who is way down the pecking order in terms of selection it would seem. Anderson is surely on his way out whilst Nani, who signed at the same time as the Brazilian, doesn’t look as if he will feature in van Gaal’s plans, especially considering his disappointing performance when he was brought on against Swansea. New signings are needed to lift the side. Fourteen days are left before the transfer window shuts.
Manchester United fielded three players yesterday who were making their debuts for the club. Jesse Lingard got the nod at right wing back, Tyler Blackett was part of the three man defence operating on the left hand side and of course, Ander Herrera started in the centre of the park alongside Darren Fletcher.
Jesse Lingard only lasts twenty five minutes before being replaced by Adnan Januzaj. Tyler Blackett looked composed on the ball and knocked some beautiful cross field passes to Januzaj in the second half, but demonstrated his naivety and inexperience by giving the ball back to Swansea City for a freekick, who immediately took a quick one, which eventually lead to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s winning strike. He was also responsible for a lunge on the energetic Bafétimbi Gomis, which saw him see yellow. Blackett does look a prospect, but needs to develop over the course of the season.
Ander Herrera looks to be a decent player, although will take time to adapt to the ways of English football. He was hurled to the ground on a number of occasions by Swansea players, with all instances leading to a foul to the home side. Many of these fouls were not due to his lightweight frame, which of that he appears on the eye, but because he got stuck into the thick of things – never backing down from a challenge or a possible interception. He was replaced by Marouane Fellaini in the second half – but his home debut offered much promise.
Awful defending and organised Swansea City
Manchester United were extremely lucky not to go a goal behind earlier in the first half when a through ball found the run of Wayne Routledge, who – following a poor first touch – couldn’t capitalise on the chance having darted in front of Jesse Lingard and behind Phil Jones. It was a warning to the home side who, very much like last season, looked extremely vulnerable from the counter attack.
The first goal game from a defensive error by Tyler Blackett who was drawn out to the left touch line in his pursuit of the ball, which subsequently pulled the other two centre halves across. This error was combined with both Darren Fletcher and Ander Herrera too far up the pitch when the South Korean Ki Sung-yueng struck the opening goal of the Premier League season.
The second goal was even worse, with Blackett gifting the ball back to Swansea City following a foul – rather than letting it run through his legs and allowing the United players to get their shape back. Swansea capitalised on this error of judgement and broke down Manchester United’s right hand side. A cross was sung into the back post where Wayne Routledge – who was unmarked as Ashley Young, who was being deployed at left back, was caught under the cross having ventured too far central – volleyed the ball back into the centre for Sigurdsson to strike home.
Skipper Ashley Williams was a rock at the back not gifting any space United’s forwards and putting in a last ditch tackle to stop Wayne Rooney following a beautiful piece of skill on the edge of the box in the second half. Swansea City were organised and got men behind the ball and United found it extremely difficult to break them down. Juan Mata was extremely quiet, which is a testament to the shape of Swansea City. Aime Jacquet, who guided France to World Cup victory in 1998 and managed Zinedine Zidane, once stated that the objective of a team playing with a number ten is to find him and play through him at – but it is also the responsibility of the number ten to find space so that his team mates can give him the ball. Mata was far too quiet yesterday, which of course is down to Swansea City’s setup.
Talking Points Conclusions
After a pre-season that promised so much, Manchester United and Louis van Gaal came crashing down with a bump of reality. Yes, pre season is important for the manager to assess fitness, bed in new players and begin to instil his way of thinking, ethos and philosophy – but the results mean nothing. United were beaten by Swansea City on the opening day of the season and could not have any complaints. The home side looked sluggish and slow to pass the ball around, a far cry from the urgency under Sir Alex Ferguson. Having said that, United are traditionally slow starters (again, though with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm) and narrowly lost to an opening day defeat in the 1998/99 treble winning season, when David Beckham scored a last minute freekick to equal the scores at 2-2.
Sure, that was sixteen years ago – but opening day setbacks do happen and van Gaal will be looking to improve in the next game against Sunderland. You may argue that the last minute goal by Beckham was a hallmark of any Ferguson side. Never give up, never give in and for the final ten minutes – throw the kitchen sink at them and you might have a chance. This is a quality that appears lacking post-Ferguson, which of course is understandable considering the influence of United’s most successful manager. The United side yesterday didn’t even appear to be able to muster up a shot let alone throw any type of object you’d find in the kitchen.
New blood is needed in this new era of United. Yes, van Gaal was missing nine first team starters with Shaw, Carrick, van Persie, Evans and Valencia all deemed not fit enough to start the match – but you’d expect a little more urgency from the players who did. Gone is the manager that the majority of fans didn’t want, but the performance remain. Louis van Gaal is a proven winner and, as mentioned, will be a success at Manchester United – but he needs a injection of players, there is no question of that. You can even argue that a clear out is needed. Will Wilfried Zaha ever be a first team regular? Will Shinji Kagawa be given a chance to show his quality a number ten? Will United even sign that much needed central midfielder? There are lots of questions that need answers and United fans will be hoping for a quick response ahead of the next game against Sunderland next Sunday.