Swansea stunned Manchester United with Gylfi Sigurdsson nicking the winner in a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford to spoil new manager Louis van Gaal’s debut. It was a rude welcome to the Prem for the Dutch manager, as Swansea had never before won a league match at Old Trafford. On Saturday, they took their chances -- and put a healthy dollop of egg on van Gaal’s face in the process.
The loss was the first speed bump for van Gaal’s new regime. Manchester United had won all of their preseason games, but today, lacking some key faces, looked to be a team still in need of help. United lacked power and pace going forward and looked quite ragged at the back at time. More concerning perhaps is that there were only flashes of quality in what overall was an average game -- for average is not what this very proud, very high-profile Manchester team expects or accepts.
In a fashion that befitted this tedious game, the winner came off a farcial play. Sub Jefferson Montero sent over a fine cross to Wayne Routledge that the midfielder attempted to put on frame. Instead, he scuffed his shot so badly that it spun right to Sigurdsson’s laces. Keeper David de Gea was left helpless as Sigurdsson then sidefooted the ball right into the back of the net.
Van Gaal did not have either Robin van Persie or Danny Welbeck available for his Premier League debut match and the first 45 minutes at Old Trafford demonstrated why the rumor mills have strongly suggested that Mexican star Javier Hernandez will eventually be the odd man out. No Hernandez-Wayne Rooney partnership developed to trouble a tight Swansea backline.
The United boss then suffered another setback when Jesse Lingard, who had looked effective wide on the right, came out the worst of a 50-50 challenge with Ashley Williams, appearing to stretch out when his trailing leg was caught in the tackle. Although the youngster walked off under his own power, van Gaal quickly sent on Adnan Januzaj as a replacement midway through the opening half, apparently taking no chances with Lingard's physical condition.
The first Swansea goal added to the woes, Ki Sung-yeung given far too much room to step into a Sigurdsson cross at the top of the box. Ki, with time to take a look, guided the ball into the low right corner past de Gea for the 1-0 Swans' advantage.
There had been early signs that Swansea could find gaps in the Red Devils' backline, but Routledge lacked the first touch to bring down one fine pass and de Gea saved well from Sigurdsson on another occasion.
What United did manage usually came from the right flank or from Juan Mata's free kicks, but there was really no problem for Swansea's new keeper, Lukasz Fabianski, in his first half between the posts.
The second half finally saw United take the bit between their teeth, sparked by van Gaal abandoning the three-at-the-back formation in favor of a more orthodox flat four. And that led to United’s goal. Wayne Rooney drew matters level with a sublime bicycle kick.
Rooney’s goal, smacked home at the near post in the 53rd minute, was a rare moment of quality for United what had been a lackluster game. Januzaj beat Neil Taylor to the endline, forcing a corner kick, and off Mata’s delivery, and a slight flick on from Phil Jones, the captain spun and slammed the ball home in acrobatic fashion.
Rooney would then ping a free kick off the outside of the post with Fabianski beat in the 66th, and that miss would prove quite costly. Six minutes later, Sigurdsson would score, and the game would peter out from then on.
No one expected van Gaal to pay immediate dividends for a United team that everyone acknowledges was in need of a major rebuild after the woe of the Moyes era. But some of the same woes -- particularly the vanished sense of invincibility that once suffused this United side -- persist. In many ways, this United side is picking up where they left off last season. Van Gaal will be under immediate pressure now to raise the level of their game.
England U-21 defender Eric Dier scored a very late goal to lead Tottenham past West Ham 1-0 at Upton Park. The Hammers were poor, failing to capitalize at all after Kyle Naughton was sent off for handling the ball in then area. Mark Noble missed the ensuing penalty, causing manager Sam Allardyce to slump, dejected in his dugout. The Hammers’ day worsened when James Collins was sent off for two yellows, allowing Spurs to push. Dier’s late goal, which came off service from Harry Kane after Guy Demel kept him onside, was fully deserved.
At Loftus Road, QPR wasted chance after chance, allowing Hull to the spoils. James Chester’s header, blowing through a visibly aged Rio Ferdinand, was the difference as the Tigers won out 1-0. Charlie Austin had a chance to tie it up from the spot for the R’s but saw his weak penalty easily stopped by Allan McGregor.
Stoke were atrocious in a 1-0 home loss to Aston Villa, with only Bojan Krkic showing any attacking flair. Andreas Weimann scored the winner in the 50th minute, and Villa keeper Brad Guzan was never seriously tested in the second half. Paul Lambert said after the game, “I thought we were excellent apart from the first 10 minutes where we were a bit nervous. It was a solid performance. The whole back four were great and the goal was excellent. We never got bullied and stood up to it.”
Two games ended up in 2-2 draws: sub Chris Wood saved Leicester City a share of the spoils on their return to the Premier League with a late goal to hold Everton to a draw. Aiden McGeady had opened the scoring with a fine, curling effort to the top corner, only to have Leonardo Ulloa answer immediately for the Foxes off a broken play. Steven Naismith restored the Toffees’ lead on the stroke of the half, but Everton looked tired as the game wore on at the King Power, and Nigel Pearson was rewarded for his tactics when Wood scored with five minutes to play.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez said afterwards: “We should have won the game. We got in front twice and, if I had a criticism, it's that we should have gone more for a third.”
And Seb Larsson scored very late to give the Black Cats a 2-2 draw with WBA at the Hawthorns. Saido Berahino scored a brace for the Baggies but it was not enough for new manager Alan Irvine. Lee Cattermols had opened the scoring for Gus Poyet’s men with a stunning strike. Jozy Altidore was a late sub for Sunderland.
And new manager Louis van Gaal saw Manchester United lose their season opener at home, falling 2-1 to Swansea. After the game, van Gaal admitted the loss was disappointing, saying “It’s a very bad day for us.”
"It is very disappointing that we have lost our first home match,” said van Gaal. “We didn't reach the level we can play at…We were very nervous in first half, made the wrong choices and that is a pity. In the second half we never played as a team, therefore I'm responsible.”