• Manchester United 2-0 Swansea, Premier League

Welbeck the answer to United's striker woe

ESPN staff
January 11, 2014
Antonio Valencia broke the deadlock before Danny Welbeck sealed the points at Old Trafford © Getty Images

Manchester United denied Swansea the chance of successive wins at Old Trafford after goals from Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck secured a 2-0 victory for David Moyes' side.

On Sunday, the visitors shocked United in the FA Cup third round to record their first ever victory at Old Trafford but there would be no repeat storyline in the Premier League six days later.

Despite enjoying much of the possession in the first half, Swansea did not take advantage and were made to rue squandered chances after the break.

Valencia pounced to smash home from three yards out after Gerhard Tremmel parried Shinji Kagawa's initial header; Adnan Januzaj the provider with one of several pinpoint crosses which capped another brilliant display from the youngster.

Welbeck completed victory just shy of the hour mark, sticking a boot out to steer the ball past Tremmel following Patrice Evra's initial effort. Once again, the move had stemmed from the creative influence of Januzaj.

Kagawa would have made it three had it not been for Leon Britton's goal-line clearance, but the home side held firm to clinch all three points.

With Sir Alex Ferguson, whose presence at games has been such a talking point, absent on a family holiday, United started with purpose, keen to avoid suffering a fourth straight defeat for the first time since the 1961 team suffered that fate.

Nemanja Vidic volleyed over from close range, although the Serbian evidently felt he should have had a penalty for a push in the back by Jordi Amat that prevented him challenging for the initial header.

Januzaj had taken the free-kick and it is a measure of the progress made by the 18-year-old this season he was also entrusted with another, from a far more central position, shortly afterwards, when Welbeck was sent crashing.

He hit the shot sweetly and Gerhard Tremmel was struggling to reach it. However, the Swansea goalkeeper was saved by his crossbar, which rattled as the ball bounced away to safety.

The shot proved to be the end of that early United thrust as the visitors pieced together their fluent passing game, denying the home side possession, which in turn made them jittery. Had Wayne Routledge been able to pick out a team-mate with an intelligent cut-back, United would have been in trouble. Instead, Michael Carrick kept a cool head to tidy up inside his own area.

Patrice Evra brought a decent save out of Tremmel at the other end, with the German goalkeeper also diving low to prevent Welbeck and Valencia reaching Kagawa's low cross. Tremmel was helpless though when Januzaj and Valencia combined to release Kagawa, who flicked an intelligent cross into the box that should have brought the opener.

Welbeck had enough room to do what he wanted. Bravely he went for the far post but was left turning in despair as the ball rolled narrowly wide. Welbeck knew what a superb chance it was. Sat high above, so did Van Persie.

A sense of anxiety started to take hold, so it was just as well United made that fast start to the second period. Januzaj created the opener, wriggling free by the touchline before dropping a cross on the six-yard line.

Ashley Williams attempt to clear led only to the Swansea skipper flicking the ball to Kagawa, whose powerful header was palmed away by Tremmel. Valencia was ready for the rebound, ramming it gleefully into the net to sighs of relief from the home support.

In their present fragile state, United could not afford to settle and poured forward looking for a second. A vital touch from Williams prevented Evra's low cross from presenting Welbeck with a tap-in, before Kagawa blazed over from 20 yards.

United refused to let their heads drop. And when Evra nudged the ball into the area, after initially looking like he was set to shoot, there was enough momentum behind it for Welbeck to find the corner with a deft flick. With Januzaj outstanding and Kagawa providing valuable support, some of the hosts' old swagger began to return.

They looked certain to get a third goal but Smalling somehow managed to scoop over from barely three yards after being picked out, completely unmarked, at the far post by Kagawa.

It was the Japan star's turn to fail with goal at his mercy shortly afterwards when Rafael fed him after leading a rapid break from deep inside his own half. Kagawa seemed to have done everything right, only for Leon Britton to get back on the line to clear a shot that just lacked enough pace to get it over.

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