SWANSEA CITY VS MANCHESTER UNITED
Yes! United are back and something’s different this season, but we can’t quite put our finger on it…
Moyes’ first Premier League match as our manager saw him set up against a Swansea side with a bigger, more competent squad than last season and whose European matters are already underway. United meanwhile have been less active in the transfer window as January recruit Zaha found himself on the bench along with Rooney. Despite the media vultures circling that player’s situation there’s no doubt the major excitement was the beginning of a new era for the Reds.
David Moyes made two changes from the team that faced Wigan in the Community Shield: Ferdinand replaced Rafael, (Jones moved to right back) and Valencia replaced Zaha.
– Great result to start Moyes’ first league game, as United have experienced tough encounters against the Swans
– United failed to exploit the space in front of the Swansea defence in the first half
– Swansea shooting themselves in the foot in the second half by taking away their threat from the full backs
– Routledge coming off destabilised Swansea’s movement inwards from the wings
– Evra played well and one wonders if the Baines rumours have been generated to get him to pick up his game? We’ll ask David Ike
– United looked vulnerable when defending set pieces
– Was Valencia’s inclusion intended to give United more solidity and predictability? (Not always a bad thing if your winger being dispossessed whilst he tries to play tricks exposes you on the counter)
– Rooney’s brief appearance was welcome as he was very creative, creating space for others with his movement and passing
– Chris Woods on the headset – was he moonlighting as a Customer Services Manager or have we got rugby type coaching staff in the stands?
A clear 4-2-3-1 from United saw Jones at right back, Valencia on the right, instead of Zaha, teaming up with Giggs and Welbeck who had licence to roam. Van Persie, meanwhile, kept a relatively high line and relied on movement around him.
Both teams pressed high in the final third but Swansea’s approach was more cohesive. United’s front line was bypassed more often due to its linearity. Swansea were able to lift the ball over United’s strikers into the gap in midfield with ease. Any space van Persie found himself in was closed down quickly and he was forced onto his right foot.
United’s first real chance came through Giggs, who had an opportunity after being fed through centrally. Realising he was being outpaced, he tried to lay onto van Persie but was thwarted. We saw the midfield two of Carrick and Cleverley play slightly higher than usual with Cleverley the higher again, leaving space behind. The youngster was culpable of a number of poor passes which put his teammates into dangerous positions. With this space available, Michu posed a constant threat as he blurred the 4-2-3-1 formation by dropping off (later exchanging with Shelvey), and played vertically as their fullbacks pushed forward. In contrast, Evra and Jones were narrow as Swansea’s Routledge and Dyer came inwards. This was not helped by Valencia who didn’t track Davies.
Swansea’s defending was in a 4-4-1-1 (or a 4-5-1 made up by Shelvey) and they were doing well as United were pedestrian in their passing and transitions. However, things quickly changed in the space of five minutes as United took a 2-0 lead through van Persie and Welbeck; special mention must be given to the technique shown by van Persie with his finish. Boom Boom!!
United were now a conventional 4-4-2 with Welbeck central behind van Persie.
Swansea made two substitutions, Bony and Hernandez, as they reverted to a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formation (Bony sat very deep) and in this they appeared less interested in the pressing game.
Early in the second half Swansea weren’t posing a threat to United. The only things of note were a chance for van Persie when he found himself in space only to shoot wide, and the introduction of Rooney as a substitute for Giggs on 62 minutes. Giggs had faded and in their attempt to get back into the game, Swansea’s defence, particularly, Chico-Flores, pushed on. It was time for Rooney’s introduction.
Now United were a 4-4-2 with Welbeck going left and Rooney, sitting as the left player of the front two. He was more creative up front as the want away striker showed great movement and concise passing.
The game had became more predictable as Swansea lost their impetus – Hernandez was sitting too deep, causing no concern and Bony had trouble getting involved trying to start from too deep a position.
Boom! United’s third goal was a delight to watch as Cleverley fed Rooney, who then fed van Persie with a sideways pass which opened up the attack to the Swansea backline. It must be noted that Rooney and Welbeck certainly played their part, providing options either side of van Persie with diversionary runs. Van Persie’s shot was superb.
Swansea then made their final change when Sung-Yueng came on for Canas in an attempt to bring the ball forward in zonal terms as Canas was inclined to sit back.
A bit of gloss came off the game when Welbeck faffed around in front of the penalty area, being easily dispossessed. The ball came to Bony who had slipped away from Ferdinand who had been sucked in, rather naively.
Anderson came on for van Persie with five minutes remaining.
Boom! Before we comment on United’s fourth goal from Welbeck, it has to be said that there was a sense of the inevitable about it; United had superiority in midfield (helped by Anderson’s introduction), Swansea’s defence was pushing higher and as they focused centrally on the oncoming Rooney, he fed the Mancunian, who with new confidence and composure that we hope he’ll show more frequently this season, he chipped Vorm. Mega!
In first half hour United’s passing was unadventurous; they didn’t move the ball well, often got trapped in tight areas and then failed to pass the ball away from danger; as a result, Swansea’s press was more effective. A way out of this may have been to switch the play or at least play longer passes. There were too many short passes and slow passing, similar to what saw in the Community Shield.
Evra was somewhat cautious in the first half, the occasional foray aside, but in the second half when he did come forward he generally stayed wide not cutting inside as he has done frequently in the past.
Welbeck had a great game. He looked more confident and composed in front of goal, whilst finding himself in many positions across the top half of the pitch, especially in the first half. Until Rooney came on, he mostly played centrally and seemed to enjoy it more.
Cleverley’s passing was poor and he played people into difficult situations. Rather than imposing himself on the game he’s more supplementary and this needs to improve.
Rooney’s cameo was excellent. From a central area he was very creative, making space for others with his movement and passing. He showed what a good player he is and why, if he gets head in right place, we would be mad to sell him and even worse, sell him to a domestic rival.