• Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City, Premier League

Van Gaal era begins with defeat

ESPN staff
August 16, 2014
Ki Sung-Yeung scores the opening goal of the Premier League season and silences Old Trafford © Getty Images

The Louis van Gaal era at Manchester United got off to a terrible start as Swansea City grabbed a stunning victory to kick-off the Premier League season.

United dominated possession but fell behind in the first half to a Ki Sung-Yeung strike from the edge of the box. Rejuvenated in the second half by switching to a flat back four, United equalised as skipper Wayne Rooney hooked in an overhead kick on 52 minutes.

Match Analysis

  • Man of the match: Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the winner but also provided the kind of leadership and inspiration Swansea needed on a day like this.
  • Villain: Ashley Young was the fall-guy for the second Swansea goal, which will only intensify the pressure on him at United.
  • Key moment: It was actually the Ki moment, if you will. The first Swansea goal showed that United under Louis van Gaal are just as fragile as they were under David Moyes, for now at least.
  • Steven Saunders

However, just as United looked like they might be able to push for a winner, they fell behind to a Gylfi Sigurdsson strike that gave Swansea their second consecutive victory at Old Trafford having never previously beaten them before last season's triumph in the FA Cup.

Back then, it was David Moyes who was shouldering the blame. Now the questions will run a lot deeper at United and many will be looking for new signings to be made before the transfer window closes on September 1.

Swansea had barely made an impression in the United half when they took the lead. Young United debutant Tyler Blackett was drawn out of position by Nathan Dyer, who laid the ball off to Sigurdsson. The Iceland international squared to Ki, who fired the ball past a diving De Gea. Wilfried Bony played an important part in the goal, blocking Phil Jones as he rushed out to challenge the South Korean goal scorer.

Premier League Results & Stats

Tottenham's Kyle Naughton was shown the first red card of the Premier League season © Getty Images

Van Gaal's men rallied briefly, but in truth United were hanging on towards the end of the first half. The United manager sought to inject life into his team at half-time by bringing Nani on for the ineffective Javier Hernandez, who started up front ahead of the unfit Robin van Persie.

Within eight minutes of the restart the hosts were level. Jones climbed well to flick on Juan Mata's corner and Rooney acrobatically swept the ball past Fabianski.

Raucous celebrations ensued on the United bench, but Van Gaal simply recorded the goal on his notepad and looked up with a blank expression. He wanted a second, but Swansea would not relent.

Sometimes the Welsh side went too far in their attempts to stop the hosts, who were now in full flow. Neil Taylor went in to the book for hacking down Adnan Januzaj, a subsitute for the injured Jesse Lingard, and referee Mike Dean also issued a caution to Jonjo Shelvey for kicking the ball away following a late tackle on Mata.

Rooney turned Ashley Williams with an exquisite bit of skill, but the Swansea captain recovered to deny the England striker.

Rooney then came agonisingly close to putting United ahead with a brilliant free-kick. After being hacked down by Jordi Almat on the edge of the area, the United captain curled a looping shot up and over the wall, but the ball struck the frame and bounced wide.

Rooney cursed his luck, but worse news was to follow for the United captain. In the 72nd minute, Routledge mishit Jefferson Montero's cross. Fortunately for Swansea, the ball fell at the feet of Sigurdsson, who bundled the ball past De Gea.

United were stretched at the back as they looked for a second equaliser. Bony slipped in behind, but Jones got back just in time.

With five minutes left, the fans behind the United dugout started filing out. They had seen enough.

United had a late penalty appeal for handball turned down, but Dean waved play on and Swansea held on for their first league win at Old Trafford.

New Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney scores with an overhead kick to equalise © PA Photos
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