Apparently, Old Trafford is still a fortress — for visiting teams. Last season, Manchester United lost six games at home. Things were no different today and Swansea stole their first points of the season from the theater of dreams.
The Red Devils enjoyed a fruitful preseason; many had anticipated that this form would carry on into the new campaign, but unfortunately they seemed to pick up right where they left off last season. Their fans are hoping that this loss was just a minor hiccup; it may very well be the case as newly appointed manager Louis Van Gaal is accustomed to slow starts — he won’t be hitting the panic button anytime soon.
This was only their first game of the new Premier League season but there may already be cause for concern. United need to get back up and they need to do it fast. If they can string a few wins together they will be able to restore the confidence and swagger which once made them the most dominant team in the country. Managers always need time, but Van Gaal is already walking a tightrope; if he fails to expeditiously whip his team into shape, their season will be a replica of the last.
Van Gaal employed a 3-5-2 formation to start the game, but abandoned it in the second half for a 4-4-1-1. The team did not seem suited to the initial formation and the defense easily lost its shape when Swansea played out wide. Their play improved in the second half with the change of formation, but the attack lacked directness; they spent much of the half moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, much to the annoyance of the home support.
The team definitely requires more training with the 3-5-2, and if Van Gaal decides to keep it, he doesn’t have much time to get his players up to speed. Their man marking was notably poor, and this led to them conceding goals to Ki Sung-Yeung and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who scored one apiece.
Swansea struck first, but a breathtaking bicycle kick from captain Wayne Rooney canceled out Ki’s first-half goal. United failed to capitalize on the momentum, and 20 minutes later, Swansea hit them again after Wilfried Bony intelligently took a quick free kick along the ground which caught the defenders on their heels. The moved was capped off by Sigurdsson who easily slotted home to secure three points and a 2-1 victory.
Van Gaal is still one of the best managers in the world, and if anyone can return United to sovereignty, he can. David Moyes left his heir with a daunting uphill battle, he has already been put through a baptism of fire and his coattails have been singed. He needs to act quickly and turn things around, or else United will be left to wander in the wilderness of mediocrity for the greater part of the foreseeable future.