Match Report and Player Ratings: Manchester United vs Swansea

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Fergie's Finest, Pride of All Europe, Sportswriting

Wayne Rooney and Juan MataPrior to Saturday’s game against Swansea, there was a sense of giddy optimism swirling around Old Trafford. The new broom of Louis van Gaal was expected to sweep the place clean of the cobwebs of misery remaining from the David Moyes regime. United fans were quietly confident that a top four finish – and therefore a Champions League place for the next season – were well within reach. Some got way, way ahead of themselves and predicted United might challenge for the Premier League title. Buoyed up by the belief that the absence of European football might leave the path clear for a championship challenge (a la Liverpool last season) and with the “mad genius” new boss at the helm, reds were starting to believe again.

After 90 minutes of football, that bubble has now burst.

Those who talked of a 21st title have so much egg on their faces now. Those who calmly predicted a top four finish will be twitching uncomfortably. For there wasn’t much on Saturday to feel confident about. Prior to the game kicking off, there was much talk on the phone-ins about what United fans would consider a success for the 2014-15 season. I’m generally a pessimist where football is concerned (that way you sometimes get nice surprises). I said a good season would be an improved home record. Decent football. The reds putting up more of a challenge against our rivals.

That improved home record thing is already out of the window. Saturday was the first time since the early 1970s that the reds have lost the inaugural league game at home. And though the display showed more promise, more planning, than anything we were forced to witness in the dark days of Moyes, it was still Swansea. At home. Liverpool, city, Chelsea, Arsenal will all blow Swansea away at home this year. So will Everton. Spurs too.

So where did it all go wrong? We never looked like scoring really; the Rooney goal aside (and this was a result of poor-marking). Never created many chances. And after Swansea took the late lead, heads dropped. The midfield looked limited, and slow. The attack ponderous. The defence wide-open.

There has been talk that Van Gaal fielded such a weak-looking line up in order to force the board’s hand. To guarantee funds to bring in at least one new player over the remaining two weeks of the transfer window. But I will believe it when we see it. United have signed fewer players than ANY OTHER team during this transfer window, despite the fact we are in dire need of new blood. The two signings we have made were – coincidentally (hah!) – sealed the week season ticket renewal forms went out. Since then we have been unable to sign anyone. Despite all the rumours, Hummels, Vidal, Cuadrado et al have not come.

Hummels is perhaps the most sorely needed. An experienced, cultured centre-back is crucial for Van Gaal’s system. Hummels is a younger version of Rio Ferdinand. A Rolls Royce of a defender. And he is an admirer of United – back in the day, his eighteenth birthday present from his family was a trip to OT to watch United in the Champions League. And yet we can’t persuade him to come.

Hell, the Argentinian defender Rojo went on strike at his current club in order to force a move, and yet we still can’t sign him up.

Ed Woodward – the equaliser – has truly levelled the playing field in the Premier League. His incompetent bumbling, his omnishambles of three transfer windows surely leave him in an untenable position… Unless he is tasked with not signing players.

That would make sense, actually.

People make a lot of the fact that United’s most successful spell in their history has come during the ownership of the (vampire) Glazers. But during their regime the club has been caught up, and taken over, by a number of Premier League clubs, let alone the European powerhouses of Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern etc. Talent drains away from the club and is not replaced. They won’t spend. United should be up there with FC Hollywood, Bayern Munich. That is the size of the club. And yet the Glazer mentality is to do things on the cheap, to make a quick buck out of the club every season…

We’ve now fallen so far behind that we won’t catch up again without serious investment. And yet, under the Glazers, nobody can seriously believe this will come.

Sad, sad times.

PLAYER RATINGS FOR SATURDAY 16TH AUGUST 2014

David de Gea – 6 – Nothing to do but to pick the ball out of the net. Twice.

Jesse Lingard/ Adnan Januzaj – (6) 7 – LVG has a reputation for ‘discovering’ new positions for players but Lingard didn’t look a wing-back before he was taken off injured. Januzaj, played on the wing, sparkled for 20 minutes and dragged United back into the game, however faded towards the end. Was kicked repeatedly.

Phil Jones – 6 – An awkward display in the main, but some lung-bursting runs provided the power United lacked going forward. One excellent tackle in the second half.

Chris Smalling – 5 – Clumsy. Poor distribution. Often bullied by Bony.

Tyler Blackett – 7 – An assured debut. He looks a proper player. Only spoiled by his lack of nous in giving the ball back to Swansea too quickly at a free kick, meaning they could burst up the pitch and score while United were still regaining their positions.

Ashley Young – 6 – A mixed display. Some lovely touches going forward but looked a little scared by the defensive aspects of the game. First goal came from his side of the pitch.

Darren Fletcher – 6 – Whilst it is great to see Fletch back from illness, he has always been a limited player. His first instinct is always to go backwards.

Ander Herrera – 6 – One woeful first half pass aside, he looked good. Substituted, when probably Mata should have gone off.

Juan Mata – 5 – Lightweight, slow. A major disappointment.

Javier Hernandez – 5 – Less touches in his first half showing than even the non-involved ‘keeper, David de Gea.

Wayne Rooney – 7 – Though he was careless with his passing, Rooney remained the one true hope of a goal, and took his goal very well.

 

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