MANCHESTER UNITED VS SWANSEA CITY
05.01.2014

After the disappointment of a New Years Day defeat against Tottenham Hotspur United now faced Swansea City in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup.

PERSONNEL

In: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Buttner, Fletcher, Hernandez and Kagawa
Out: De Gea, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Rooney and Januzaj.

KEY POINTS

  • This game conformed to the now familiar pattern of games at Old Trafford. United started reasonably brightly without really setting the house of fire. Failed to make a breakthrough and then conceded. On this occasion they managed to get back into the game but did not have the creativity or momentum to then take the game on.
  • It is hard to find any significant plus points in what was generally a very bad day at the office, but Welbeck worked hard for 90 minutes and attempted to find space between the lines. Those around him didn’t really respond. Fletcher worked hard but looked like a player returning from a year long injury and Buttner’s crosses, particularly in the first half were a threat.
  • Kagawa was disappointing and one is left wondering if his limited opportunities in his favoured central position and his general experience as a United player to date have left him demoralized with low confidence. Fabio’s contribution was headless and Januzaj performance after he was introduced, whilst generally unsupported, left one with the impression he could use a break. United must not overplay him.

FIRST HALF

As Against Tottenham on New Year’s day United again started brightly. The tempo was perhaps not as high but initially United’s play was bright. Fletcher sat deep behind Cleverley ho pushed on a bit higher. Welbeck sat seep centrally with Valencia to the right and Kagawa as is his usual way narrow and mobile from the left.  In this opening few minutes Welbeck was extremely mobile, dropping deeper to link play and attempting to find space between the lines of Swansea’s defence and midfield.

1st half United’s first half shape

As a consequence of this United put together a couple of useful early one touch moves with involving Welbeck as the central figure. He combined well with Valencia, Hernandez and Smalling. This resulted in a couple of moves which might have resulted in a breakthrough. One ended in an offside, the other resulted in a miss-kick by Hernandez when even a half decent connection would surely have resulted in a goal.

Then Swansea went up the other end and scored from their first meaningful attack. This came after 12 minutes. Swansea broke through the middle, Bony dropped deep taking Ferdinand with him whilst Wayne Routledge ran in behind and beat Evans and Smalling all ends up for pace before chipping Lindegaard. Good move and superb finish but from a United perspective it exposed Ferdinand lack of positioning, decision making and to an extent his declining pace.

SOFT MIDDLE

Against Tottenham after conceding United’s confidence visibly wilted. To their credit here it did not. United score responded with an equalizer after five minutes when in the 17th minute Buttner whipped in a low early cross behind the Swansea defence and Hernandez treated himself to a simple one touch finish. The quality of the cross made the goal.

There isn’t that much to say about the rest of the half as in truth after getting themselves back into the game United’s performance was pretty lackluster and Swansea were perhaps too over cautious. There are however a couple of observations to make.

Firstly Swansea sat deep inviting United to break them down. United couldn’t do so, principally as a consequence of the much discussed creativity deficit through the centre. United attacking play looked at its most dangerous in two clear situations. The rest of the time their football was moribund.

The first of those situations was where Swansea made a mistake at the back. Swansea are a good, (not great), passing side, but they do tend to try to play out from the back and often take risks. United looked threatening when they managed to take advantage of this, and it was a case of Swansea making errors rather than United forcing them, (United didn’t really press as assiduously as they did in the first half hour of the previous game against Tottenham.

The second scenario was situations where Buttner pushed forward and whipped in early crosses. Buttner is a far better player going forward than he is a defender. Evidence of this was the goal, but there were other similar threatening crosses delivered early with his trademark whip.

1-1 half time.

SECOND HALF

What can we say about the second half. United were poor and spent most of the first twenty minutes chasing Swansea as they out-passed United. The difference from the first half were that Swansea stepped forward playing higher up the pitch and being generally more assertive. Clearly they had decided at half-time that there was nothing to fear from United.

2nd half United’s shape after the first substitution

Perhaps as a consequence after 63 minutes United made a change bring on Januzaj in place of Valencia. In terms of position this was a straight swap. Januzaj tried hard although this was probably his least effective performance in a United shirt. He found himself often isolated wide on the right-hand side. He was given little meaningful support and found himself some distance from the United central midfield pair. He often found himself running into a hole surrounded by three Swansea defenders conversing on him.

On 76 minutes United made a second change replacing Ferdinand with Fabio. Smalling now moved to centre-back with Fabio moving to right back. Fabio certainly injected energy into his role. He charged about like a bull in a china shop and after just four minutes got himself sent off for a late-studs up challenge. Fool hardy.

Last ten minutes The last ten minutes

United now faced 10 minutes as 10 versus 11. They reverted to a 4-4-1 shape with Fletcher dropping back to right back and Kagawa dropping into central midfield. Welbeck moved to the left hand side. This was all very reminiscent of United’s tactical reorganization after Nani’s sending off in the Champions League against Madrid last season. Swansea emboldened went from a 4-2-3-1 shape to a 4-4-2.

POSITIONING

On 90 minutes Swansea scored. Fletcher, (a makeshift full-back let’s not forget) allowed a cross in from the right which fell between Evans and Smalling for Bony to head in from close range.

Game over.

CONCLUSION

We will leave our report on this match with two quoted from David Moyes post the match. They could apply to any number of recent games.

“I think we played quite well in the first half, we got near the edge of the box quite regularly in the first half, but we didn’t quite make the opportunity to score more goals.

“That was the disappointing thing as we’d come back from a goal behind and I thought for long periods we had control of the game, but we didn’t get a goal or create enough chances from it.”