Manchester United, the champions from the 2012-13 season, opens the 2013-14 season on the road. United’s title defense begins. New United coach David Moyes was making his regular season debut. It was the first game in 25 years that Sir Alex Ferguson was not on the sidelines. All eyes were on Moyes and expectations are high.
It was a walk in the park last year for Man U. The story will be very different this year. They are not even the experts’ favourites to win the title.
As is typical with large clubs the off season was a tumultuous one. This was mostly due to one player. Wayne Rooney has been pushed to the sidelines due to the scoring prowess of striker Robin Van Persie. He has asked several time to leave the team; Rooney wants to play for another club. Rooney is still with the team for now as he made the trip to play Swansea.
The game was played at Liberty Stadium in Wales. Swansea played 7 preseason games winning them all while scoring 27 goals. They play a good passing game and are a tough team at home. Not many have come into Liberty Stadium and leave victorious. Swansea was missing Jonathan De Guzman, who is out with a concussion. Up front they have two strong strikers. Michu had an excellent season last year scoring 18 goals. He has good technical ability plus is a hard worker. Swansea went out and signed the Dutch club player of the year last year to help him out in front. Wilfried Bony will be an important player for Swansea.
Despite the fact that it had been raining all day there was a fast tempo to start the game. I’m sure Man U players and fans were remembering back to the team’s first away game last season where they lost 3-0 to Everton, the side formerly coached by Moyes. United started off slow whereas Swansea was passing the ball really well. It was a good start for the home side and over the first 30 minutes they were the better side.
Man U is undefeated in their last 12 away games in the EPL and like all top clubs they might not dominate but if you give them an inch they will make you pay. This exact thing happened in the 34th minute when they scored a goal out of what seemed like nothing. Left midfielder, the ageless Ryan Giggs tried to pass the ball into the Swansea box. He pass was deflected by Leon Britton and it popped up into the air. It was a case of Van Persie just wanting the ball more than Swansea defender Ashley Williams. Van Persie’s first touch was great and the ensuing side volley was even better. It went straight into the net past a diving Michael Vorm.
The Manchester United fans had barely finished celebrating over the 1st goal when Danny Welbeck made it 2-0 in the 36th minute. Fullback Patrice Evra went for a run down the left side. He crossed the ball over into the 18 yard box where Van Persie headed it over to Antonio Valencia. Valencia showed good composure and instead of forcing a shot from a severe angle he slotted the ball across the 6 yard box to an uncovered Welbeck. Welbeck just had to redirect the ball into the empty side of the net.
Just like that United had grabbed control of the game. No matter how well Swansea had played over the first part of the game the writing was pretty much on the wall at this point. The outcome was a given. Manchester United has gone undefeated in 57 games in which they have scored first. They now began to play with confidence after being outplayed over the first half hour of the fixture.
At the beginning of the 2nd half Swansea once again applied the pressure. Michu had a chance from just outside the 18 yard box. His dipping and diving shot was well saved by David De Gea. In an attempt to slow down Swansea Moyes made a substitution in the 61st minute bringing Wayne Rooney in for the veteran Ryan Giggs. Rooney was to play as the 2nd center forward in behind Van Persie with Welbeck moving over to the left side. In the game he did not look like the same Wayne Rooney. For the entire 30 minutes he was in the game while he did contribute Rooney looked disinterested.
In the 69th minute United almost made it 3-0. They had a corner which Van Persie took. Evra got a head to it when he outleapt Angel Rangel. It was going into the open side of the net, but Jose Canas cleared it off the line. Three minutes later Man U did make it 3-0 when Van Persie scored his second goal of the game. The play was started off by Rooney. He flicked it with his foot to Van Persie. Rooney and Welbeck made good runs off the ball which drew defenders away from the Dutch striker. Van Persie settled the ball, picked up his head and fired a left footed shot into the roof of the net from just outside the 18 yard box. A class goal by a class striker.
Swansea now is playing like they know the game is over. Suddenly out of nowhere the home side scores their first goal of the season. Substitute Pablo Hernandez nutmegs Tom Cleverly, who did have a bit of tough game, just outside the 18 yard box. He then played the ball over to Bony, who like any good striker, shot the ball past De Gea along the ground to the far side. Though they scored I don’t think anyone thought that Swansea was going to come all the way back.
The scoring was rounded out by Man U in added on time. Again it was Rooney who set up the goal. He played the ball through to Welbeck, who made a great run. Welbeck then showed composure by calmly lifting the ball over Vorm from in close. The whole time while almost his entire team was celebrating the team’s 4th goal and Welbeck’s 2nd, Rooney stayed away from his teammates and didn’t celebrate. Yes, he had received a knock on the shin while playing the ball through, but he seemed like a guy who really doesn’t want to be with Man U. That has got to be noticed by his teammates.
The score does not really reflect the game. United was clinical about their chances; they finished. It was the perfect start to their title defense and to David Moyes’ career at Man U.
Up next for Manchester United is Chelsea at home. Swansea will go on the road to Tottenham.
-Referee: Phil Dowd
-Goals: 1st Half:
34th minute: Manchester United – Robin Van Persie
36th minute: Manchester United – Danny Welbeck
72nd minute: Manchester United – Robin Van Persie
82nd minute: Swansea – Wilfired Bony
90th + 2 minute: Manchester United – Danny Welbeck
-Shots on Goal: Manchester United – 8
Swansea – 6
-Corners: Manchester United – 4
Swansea – 7
-Man of the Match: Robin Van Persie – Manchester United
-Final Score: Manchester United – 4
Swansea – 1