[Premier League] Manchester United 2-0 Swansea City
ManUtd: Antonio Valencia (47), Danny Welbeck (59)
Manchester United returned to winning ways and avenged last weekend’s FA Cup third round defeat to Swansea City after goals from Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck sealed an important 2-0 victory.
The Reds started brightly and could have taken an early lead through Nemanja Vidic, who volleyed over from six yards, before the impressive Adnan Januzaj struck the crossbar with a delicious free-kick moments later.
With just over half an hour on the clock, a lovely passing move on the edge of Swansea's area led to Darren Fletcher slicing high and wide, before Welbeck dragged another effort wide of goal, missing the first half’s best chance following some neat approach play from Valencia and Rafael.
David Moyes didn’t make any changes at the break, though his side returned for the second half with renewed urgency and immediately scored via Valencia, who slotted in at the far post after Shinji Kagawa’s header was parried into his path by Gerhard Tremmel. Welbeck doubled the lead on 59 minutes, much to the delight of a relieved Old Trafford crowd, by expertly clipping Patrice Evra’s speculative shot into the net for his ninth goal of the season.
Chris Smalling, playing at centre-back, missed an excellent opportunity to score a third when his close-range volley sailed over the bar, while Kagawa should have opened his account for the season on 77 minutes when his delicate effort was cleared off the line after a superb counter-attack involving Januzaj and Rafael.
It may not have been a classic, but a first victory of 2014 was all that mattered for United.
The Match Three points was all that mattered for United following three straight defeats in all competitions – a run that also included last weekend’s FA Cup loss to the Swans. Crucially, after a first half of few chances, United returned from the half-time break with added urgency and ultimately dominated the following 45 minutes to record a comfortable win that was secured via goals from Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck.
The Goals Adnan Januzaj's left-wing cross found Shinji Kagawa at the back post and his header was well saved by Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel. But the rebound fell kindly to Valencia, who smashed home to open the scoring and spark the game into life on 47 minutes. Just 12 minutes later, Welbeck produced a deft touch to divert Patrice Evra's shot just inside the post and double the lead.
Star Men Playing in the hole behind the striker for much of the game, Adnan Januzaj was arguably United’s most potent attacking weapon and the 18-year-old prodigy was a constant thorn in Swansea’s side, regularly linking up with the similarly dangerous Welbeck. When he was pushed out to the wing he was similarly effective and it was his cross that led to the first goal. Darren Fletcher also produced another impressive display in midfield and even caught the eye with a cheeky second-half backheel.
Sub-plots Danny Welbeck now has six goals in his last six Barclays Premier League games, but the biggest story today was the team returning to winning ways with a first victory in 2014. That will give the players a much-needed confidence boost ahead of a tricky trip to Stamford Bridge next Sunday.
Opposition After last weekend’s heroics, the Swans will be bitterly disappointed by their performance at the Theatre of Dreams and head back to South Wales with much to work on. Notably, Michael Laudrup's side enjoyed 61 per cent of the possession but only managed two shots on David De Gea's goal.
Move of the Match Danny Welbeck couldn't supply the required finish when Rafael's cross fell to the striker 12 yards out midway through the first period, but the way United carved out the opening was stunning. Quick passing on the halfway line between Rafael, Januzaj and Valencia opened up Swansea and released the Ecudaorian down the right. He found Rafael, who had continued his run, with a terrific pass and the Brazilian helped the ball on again to Welbeck, whose first-time shot spun just wide of the post.
In the Stands After three straight defeats, the United fans were understandably mellow during the opening exchanges, though the supporters were in fine voice at the appropriate times. Once again, that familiar chant of 'Come on David Moyes', to the tune of Slade’s ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’, could be heard from all sides of the ground.