5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City


By Jason Freeman

1. History suggests things will improve

There weren’t many positives to take from yesterday’s game, it was an awful performance and result. After a good pre-season with 6 wins out of 6 things looked good, when it really mattered today the players didn’t produce though and that is a big disappointment. The passing was slow, lacking in quality and also in accuracy. Defensively, we were all over the shop, Ki and Sigurdsson were allowed plenty of space to score. In attack, the strongest area of the team, we created very little, and that’s a worry with Mata, Rooney, Januzaj, Young, Nani and Herrera on the pitch.

Earlier in the summer van Gaal had said that it may take 3-4 months for the players to adapt to his ways. It didn’t seem that way in pre-season but after today it makes a lot more sense. Looking at his start at Bayern Munich perhaps provides evidence of this with 2 draws and a loss in his first 3 games as Bayern boss, he finished the season with a Bundesliga title and a spot in the final of the Champions League. I don’t think we’ll win the league this season and obviously we won’t be a Champions League finalist but history does suggest it takes time for him to get his team playing the way he wants and we’ll hopefully see some signings in the next few weeks, our injury problems lessened and improvements on the pitch in the coming months.

2. “Get the cheque book out”

Louis van Gaal even said it after the game, he knew before the game we needed signings, and we all did too, this result and performance just made things even more apparent. Injuries have also perhaps made things look worse with a few wing back options missing on both sides, our (in my opinion) best and most experienced centre back; Jonny Evans was also missing. Despite injuries though, signings are needed, especially at centre back. With Vidic and Ferdinand leaving in the summer, replacements were needed, so far they haven’t arrived and reported target Vermaelen has moved to Barcelona. Other targets are available but time is running out.

Elsewhere, midfield has been a long term problem. Ander Herrera has done well so far and United looked worse without him today but a quality midfielder is needed to partner him as while it’s great to see Fletcher back and doing well after an incredibly tough time, it’s not enough, there’s no room for sentiment, this is Manchester United and if we’re to get back to where we were, we’ll need to invest.

Just over 2 weeks until the window closes. Tick tock.

3. Bright debut for Blackett

Before kick off or even pre-season, a lot of people may not have heard of Tyler Blackett, the ones that had heard of him before the pre-season tour would never have guessed he’d have been going on tour or starting the first league game of the season today. Although a promising left back at U18 level, Blackett has struggled since stepping up to U21 level, often sitting on the bench or playing out of position, he has also had a couple of poor loan spells at Blackpool and Birmingham.

During pre-season, he was used on the left of the back 3 and improved with each game. Calm and confident in possession and solid in defence throughout pre-season and ended pre-season with a match winning assist against Valencia, late on with the game at 1-1 he sent a long ball forward and Fellaini took it down on his chest and slotted home.

Today was pretty much a continuation of his pre-season performances. He made the most passes out of anyone on the pitch and the most accurate of any of the starting 22 players. His performance wasn’t without flaws though, perhaps at fault, although not solely, for the 2nd goal and maybe even the first too. A schoolboy error also for the 2nd goal in which he passed the ball back to Swansea to allow them to take a quick free kick which resulted in the goal. Despite that I thought he was probably our best player against Swansea, with signings likely to be made, he might find further opportunities harder to come by but he’ll have certainly made an impression on van Gaal in the last month.

4. Louis van Gaal not afraid to change things

For the duration of last season we bemoaned the lack of a Plan B, the last manager continually used a 4-4-2 system and persisted with it even if it wasn’t working. Supposedly if he changed things it would show a weakness as it would prove he was wrong in the first place or something. He was also worried about what people would say if he made a big decision and even admitted to that after a home defeat with Newcastle in December 2013 when van Persie, who had recently returned from injury, played 90 minutes despite it being clear he wasn’t fully fit.

Van Gaal has no fear though, we saw this in the World Cup to great success and we saw it again today with initial success but it didn’t pay off in the end. He switched from the 3-5-2 to a 4-4-1-1 at half time against Swansea, 7 minutes after half time we equalised and looked like we might go on to win it. However, his next change didn’t work out as well when he brought Fellaini on for Herrera, after that we seemed to lose a bit of control on the game and just 5 mins after the substitution Swansea regained the lead and that was how it was to stay. Unless injured it was a strange move to take Herrera off, perhaps it wouldn’t have been such an issue though if there was better quality on the bench or already on the pitch.

5. Rooney can’t do it all on his own

Recently appointed club captain, Wayne Rooney scored our only goal today but I got the impression from early on that he was trying to win the game by himself, taking on a couple of long range shots on when other options were probably best. He was not alone in making poor choices, Januzaj also when he came on was too selfish, as were many others but as captain and one of the more senior players you’d hope that Rooney would make better decisions. After the game, van Gaal criticised his players as they didn’t play as a team and it is this I think he was talking about. Van Gaal also said after the Valencia game in midweek that Rooney was perhaps affected by the captaincy during the game. Hopefully in time Rooney will learn to “let it fly”.

Until Januzaj came on, Rooney was the only player that really looked like scoring. Hernandez was completely anonymous and Mata was not on his game. With van Persie back soon that will hopefully decrease the load on Rooney. Others will need to step up also because he cannot do it on his own.

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  1. Underwhelming start & as LVG said there were a lot of nerves as undoubtedly players were aware that they were playing for their futures. It was also clear that they were all concentrating more on carrying out their own individual instructions rather than playing as a team. That said it is clear that there are many who played yesterday who are definitely not up to being a United first choice selection such as:- Hernandez, Young, Fletcher, Fellaini. Add to those the ones that didn’t even make the 1st eleven or squad such as Kagawa, Cleverley, Anderson & it’s easy to understand what a dire situation we find ourselves in. Definitely LVG is “The Correct One” (new banner for Stretford End) but he is no miracle worker & without the use of this bottomless pit of cash that Ed Woodward has announced to the World (at least another &100m spend is required in next two weeks) then this season is going to be another struggle. LVG said 2 / 3 months is required to get them into shape & be a force to be reckoned with & you have to accept that on yesterday’s showing he is absolutely right. Patience is the key!

  2. Moyes took alot of stick last year for how bad we played – & it was painful at times, but some of the blame has got to go in Fergies direction, he left the team in a mess , everyone knew we needed players & they were never going to join with Moyes taking over & Gill leaving too.

    A lot of work needs to be done on the first 11 let alone the squad or it’s going to be another year like the last, Van Gaal may be good, but he needs the players to be at a level above what most of them currently are.

    & also – someone please tell Ed Woodward to shut up about how much money we’re gonna spend – it doesn’t help the situation at all.

  3. obviously it was a dissapointing start but am sure LVG will bring out results. As for signings, i don’t think we need a whole lot of players, no, a proper midfielder to compliment Herrera and a centr back ans we will be fine…ggmu

  4. The preseason provided so much promise but reality quickly put us two steps back. It is quite clear that we lack the quality and as mentioned among my fellow UNITED supporters certain players went missing.

    I still have hope that we can turn this around but we definitely need new players and not just panic buys. I guess we need to have patience because we can no longer attract top top players like we used to and were spoiled with so much success.

    Let’s hope Woodward and Glazers support LVG so that we can get back up to the top.

  5. Def agree with Rizzy re Fergie. He definitely put all his efforts into winning number 20 knowing that he was leaving and yes left us with a depleted, ageing squad. But it’s just not possible to be critical after he gave us so much success and enjoyment over such a long period. Also agree with Redkenyan that major surgery is not needed. If we can get DiMaria, Rojo & Blind, Vidal maybe + Strootman in January, get RVP back next week along with Carrick and Evans back at some stage we should be OK. Definitely need to release the ones that just aren’t quality enough in order to make room & be financially sensible. The question is can we trust Woodward to back up his claims in the next 2 weeks??

  6. Agree it was very depressing on Saturday, not least because there had been reason for optimism from pre-season. Saturday was like a bad Moyes day all over again. Buy hey its only one game and we won our last title losing the first game at Goodison when the best player on the park was Fellaini.
    Don’t agree with all this anti-Fergie stuff, he always had his eye on 2-3 seasons hence. He will be hurting as much as anybody.
    Do agree with Redkenyan, am not sure about all these foreigners who don’t know the prem league, we have had Kagawa then Mata now Herrara, all tidy players but hardly got the opposition worried. We need a couple of proper warriors either in the back 3 or 4, or in front of defence who don’t get injured every 10 minutes, then the flair guys can do their stuff.

  7. The Elephant in the room.

    Please look back on the match and see the build up play that broke down when Rooney got the ball. There were numerous times we looked like we were on the verge of something then the ball went to Rooney and he tried to lay it off down the wing with his first touch. EVERY time it was to short and got intercepted.

    He needs to be able to turn and face/run at his opponents, theres no point in playing the ball wide when you know the follwoing:

    1)We dont have an accurate crosser of the ball

    and even if they do manage not to hit the first defender on the odd occasion:

    2)We don’t have anyone who can finish from a cross (Heading mostly)

    We have to be able to supply the ball to attackers to feet and not only when there back is to the goal outside the 18 yard box

  8. Dear Mr Realred that really is a glass half full perspective, it is unlike Rooney to be so poor with his passing. I got the feeling he was playing it to feet expecting the ‘winger’ to cut straight in on goal as he would have done had he been running into that space. But the ‘winger’ was expecting it out wide and ran there in anticipation of putting in a cross, that’s why it looked so naff.

    Certainly last season our crossing was very poor but I think Mr L van G will sort that out. As I recall Rooney is not bad in the air and neither is Rip van Pesky (remember Arsenal at OT last season – one of the few highlights under Moyes).

    The attackers to feet theory is a fair point but Chicarito didn’t get much of a look-in and I think Swansea had that one covered.

    Januzai got into good positions but I think was under orders to shoot on goal with his left peg when the better option was to play someone in. I think that’s what L van G meant when he said the team didn’t play intelligently.

    Never mind, it’ll soon be Sunday and we can whack them Mackems.

  9. Man of United on

    you have to analyze the number of English & non-English players fielded by LVG – there are patterns – such as the more English players fielded by LVG – United have won while when only fielding 6 (vs Swansea) and 5 (vs MK Dons) they lost badly – LVG buying Rojo, Di Maria and Blind may have to do with AVERAGE NON-ENGLISH PLAYERS

    I feel for Cleverley – I think he needed to at least breaks a leg to one City or definitely a Scouse football players – then get a move to Valencia in January 2015

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