Disastrous debut for van Gaal as Swans down Red Devils
MAN UNITED 1
(Wayne Rooney 53)
(Ki Sung Yueng 28, Gylfi Sigurdsson 72)
Louis van Gaal's day began amid talk of recovery, Champions League qualification and, in some circles, of the title.
It ended in the same way as so many of David Moyes' games at Old Trafford last season - with a defeat.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Not quite.
There was evident desire and movement here, there were signs of more than just an intention to cross. And yet the result was every bit as disappointing.
Swansea, expected to offer little more than token resistance on van Gaal's big day, were outstanding.
They kept the ball well, picked their moments to strike, took their chances and held their nerve.
When Wayne Rooney cancelled out Ki Sung Yueng's opener, it felt like a precursor to a winner.
How many times have United come back at Old Trafford, roared on by their fans as they raced against the clock?
But that sort of thing doesn't happen as often anymore. Times have changed.
The team have changed, too. This was not the starting line-up that van Gaal would have envisioned when he first arrived at the club.
With injuries to Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Robin van Persie, there was something of a mix and match feel to the side.
For all the talk of limitless spending, he could call on only one new signing in Ander Herrera, the Spaniard's presence augmented with two young debutants in Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard, the latter deployed as a right wingback, rather than in his usual slot up front.
Who would want to be in Ed Woodward's shoes this morning?
United did their best to make it work, starting with obvious desire and with far more adventurous movement than they demonstrated last season under Moyes.
The back three were ambitious, with Phil Jones and Blackett pushing out wide to allow the wingbacks to roam forwards.
But there was an inability to feed captain Wayne Rooney swiftly enough, a failure to really dominate the final third.
There had been concerns as early as the sixth minute when Jonjo Shelvey was able to release Wayne Routledge with a through-ball that left Jones struggling to make up ground.
Swansea, unlike their opponents, had enjoyed a very settled summer.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianksi was their only new arrival, save for the returning Gylfi Sigurdsson who knows this club well. Manager Garry Monk has insisted that his priority is raising the standards that had slipped under his predecessor Michael Laudrup.
At least one manager had an encouraging opening day.
The first clue that this would not be United's day came in the 20th minute when Lingard's afternoon ended early.
His sprightly debut was caught short by injury, even if he did his best to run through the pain. Reluctantly, he was replaced by Adnan Januzaj.
In the 28th minute, Swansea took the lead, breaking down the right flank through Nathan Dyer, running the ball across the edge of the box through Sigurdsson and then slotting the ball home through Ki.
Van Gaal would have noted with interest that neither Fletcher nor Herrera were anywhere near the South Korean midfielder. He could not have been given any more space.
Across the pitch and in the stands, heads dropped.
United's swift start slowed. Swansea grew in confidence.
When half-time came, it came with the Welsh side in possession.
The experiment with a back three was immediately cut short.
Luis Nani came on for Javier Hernandez and United reverted to a back four. It took eight minutes for the switch to take effect.
Januzaj was tormenting Neil Taylor on the right flank, luring him first into a foul that saw him booked and then into giving away a corner.
From that set-piece, Phil Jones won the ball. nodded it back across the six-yard box and Rooney was able to smash an overhead kick home from close range.
On the bench, van Gaal remained impassive. Halfway through the first half, Rooney smashed a free-kick off the post. The fightback seemed inevitable. But it never came.
Instead it was Swansea who scored, a driven finish from Sigurdsson after excellent work on the flank from Jefferson Montero.
United's efforts to salvage the game never looked convincing.
Van Gaal has a lot of work on his hands.
- MAN UNITED: David De Gea, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tyler Blackett, Juan Mata, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera (Marouane Fellaini 67), Darren Fletcher, Jesse Lingard (Adnan Januzaj 24), Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez (Luis Nani 45).
- SWANSEA: Lukasz Fabianski, Jordi Amat, Neil Taylor (Dwight Tiendalli 53), Ashley Williams, Angel Rangel, Ki Sung Yeung, Jonjo Shelvey, Nathan Dyer (Jefferson Montero 77), Wayne Routledge, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wilfried Bony (Bafetimbi Gomis 77)