The 2014/15 season began in disappointing fashion for Louis van Gaal and Manchester United as Swansea City secured a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford.
The visitors took the lead on 28 minutes through Ki Sung-yeung, before his effort was cancelled out by Wayne Rooney’s second-half leveller. Rooney hit a post soon after but it was the Swans who found a second rather than United and it proved to be the winner as Gylfi Sigurdsson fired past David De Gea on 72 minutes.
Van Gaal had a raft of injuries to deal with in his first competitive match in charge with up to nine first-team squad members in the treatment room. Defence was the most depleted area with youngster Tyler Blackett, making his United debut, slotting in to the back three alongside Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Jesse Lingard, also making his Reds bow, came in as the right wing-back with Ashley Young on the other side. Another debutant was Ander Herrera, in the centre with Darren Fletcher. Juan Mata, Rooney and Chicharito set up ahead of them.
There was a fast-paced opening to the game, but a real lack of clear-cut openings; a 20-yard curling, dipping effort from Sigurdsson on 12 minutes, which was well claimed by De Gea, was the only attempt of any note early on.
The Reds lost Lingard to injury on 24 minutes and he was replaced by Adnan Januzaj, while Jones brought the first save from Lukasz Fabianski in the Swansea goal with a cross-cum-shot which almost sneaked in at the near post. Rather than get a corner, the Reds were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Jones as he struck the ball and, from the set-piece, Mata drew another decent save from the keeper. Rooney headed straight at Fabianski soon after.
Just as United appeared to be building some real attacking momentum, the visitors took a shock lead in the 28th minute. After Nathan Dyer had flicked the ball on to Sigurdsson from the right wing, the Swansea star drove towards the centre before setting up Ki to strike a low drive past De Gea’s outstretched arm.
This wasn’t exactly in the script for van Gaal who opted to change his favoured 3-5-2 formation to 4-4-1-1 for the start of the second half and also brought on Nani in place of Chicharito. Within eight minutes of the restart, the Reds were level. Januzaj, a constant early threat at the start of the second period, won a corner which Mata swung in from the right. The ball deflected off Jones and into the path of Rooney who found the net with a spectacular overhead kick from three yards out.
Rooney was almost in again three minutes later after a superb turn in the area when receiving a pass from Nani, but Ashley Williams managed to stretch out a leg to clear the danger for Swansea. The United skipper was at the heart of everything and his excellent 25-yard free-kick on 56 minutes smacked the outside of the left-hand post.
Totally against the run of play, Swansea went back in front. A quick free-kick in midfield led to substitute Jefferson Montero sprinting down the left. His cross fell to Wayne Routledge who, despite slipping, managed to knock the ball back into the unmarked Sigurdsson’s path and his shot was too strong for De Gea to keep out despite the Spaniard’s best attempts.
There was to be no way back for the Reds, despite a decent handball shout in the box against Angel Rangel towards the end, who will be determined to put this result behind them as quickly as possible.