Van Gaal's Red Devils have lost the plot
(Ki Sung Yueng 30, Bafetimbi Gomis 73)
MAN UNITED 1
(Ander Herrera 28)
On the first day of the season, Swansea made a mockery of Louis van Gaal's revolution.
Last night, they made a mess of his alleged renaissance.
The Welsh warriors did more than make a little history by defeating Manchester United home and away in the same campaign, they exposed the Red Devils' shortcomings.
Van Gaal speaks of his players' devotion to the Dutchman's cause and the unswerving support he enjoys among supporters, but United's inaction speaks louder than his words.
The 2-1 loss at the Liberty Stadium was only the second in 20 games, but United's luck ran out in the end. After more great escapes than Steve McQueen, there were no acts of escapology left. Houdini has left the building.
Swansea pulled back the curtain to reveal the illusion.
United remain a work barely in progress, starved of pace and invention in attack and lumbered with that dodgy defence.
Despite dominating most of the game, van Gaal's plodders resorted to one hopeful long ball after another. Their season might still end with an FA Cup final date at Wembley but this is nowhere near the United of old.
They look more like the Wimbledon of old.
Much has been made of United's midfield, but it's their defence that continues to splinter. It's difficult to be sure-footed when the foundations remain so unstable.
Early in the game, Bafetimbi Gomis rose like a phoenix above flapping pigeons to power a header towards goal, but Ander Herrera threw as many body parts as possible towards the ball.
Gomis was denied a goal by a matter of millimetres.
Herrera, on the other hand, is proving to be quite the headache for his manager.
In a bid to perhaps accommodate Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie with expensive newcomers Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao, van Gaal has made Herrera the fall guy. The winger has often been benched.
But the tricky winger is a Spaniard in the works. He denied Swansea supporters at one end, but then delighted his own in the 28th minute.
United went ahead with a sumptuous attack. Each move underlined the importance of the personnel involved. Each pass was a dagger through Falcao's heart.
Turning quite beautifully, Rooney received and laid off to Di Maria in one fluid movement. The Argentine slipped in the overlapping Herrera on the right, who smashed a first-time strike across goal and into the bottom corner.
The balletic build-up encapsulated United at their best, fast, instinctive and decisive. The goal was the worst news for a glum, shivering Juan Mata and a forlorn Falcao on the bench. They are surplus to attacking requirements.
But United's defence remains in dire need of reinforcements. Once again, the back four displayed all the consistency of melting ice cream.
Entirely against the run of play, Swansea coasted to the easiest of equalisers just two minutes after falling behind.
Drifting down the left, an unmarked Jonjo Shelvey whipped in a routine cross towards the far post, where an equally unmarked Ki Sung-Yueng arrived to knock the ball past a bemused David de Gea.
Luke Shaw lost Ki. The unfortunate, one-paced Paddy McNair lost Shelvey and United lost their lead.
Ki suddenly became a quirky answer in a pub quiz, becoming the first Asian footballer to score against United, home and away, in the same season.
The Red Devils' defence belongs in a pub side.
Van Gaal had certainly seen enough. McNair didn't return for the second half, replaced at the break by Antonio Valencia. Ashley Young took Shaw's place shortly after.
The intent was clear. Only a win would do.
United dominated possession. They established cannons on the flanks and pumped high balls into the box. Van Gaal calls them high passes.
When they reach targets and result in goals, they are successfully executed passes. When they float aimlessly towards the penalty spot, they are long balls.
Increasingly, United ran out of ideas. And Swansea ran away with the game.
Starved of options, Shelvey thumped a speculative effort from a full 25m that de Gea presumably had covered, until Gomis clumsily ducked out of the flight path.
He was too late, the ball flicked off his ear and veered away from de Gea.
Liberty Stadium erupted. The Swans were swinging. United had imploded.
Van Gaal will need more than a dossier to explain away this defeat.
LAST NIGHT'S OTHER RESULTS
- Aston Villa 1 Stoke City 2
- Chelsea 1 Burnley 1
- Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2
- Hull City 2 QPR 1
- Sunderland 0 West Brom 0