Swansea Shock United and Louis Van Gaal


The first shock result of the Premier League season has arrived early, very early. The first game, actually. Swansea took out Manchester United, and Louis Van Gaal, on the first day of the season. Lets face the facts. Swansea deserved the victory. They made the best of their chances (really their two goals were the only chances they got) and defended great. United did the exact opposite.

Despite having 60% of the possession, and getting 14 shots, United mustered just 5 on goal. Swansea hit 5 shots, 4 of which were on target. 3 important factors won Swansea the game, and the failure to halt these factors caused Van Gaal to lose his United managerial debut.

Wing Play:

When Jesse Lingard, the only true fullback on the field, had to come off for injury, and was replaced by Adnan Januzaj, United’s defense took a major hit. Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and later Jefferson Montero had field days on the flanks. Both goals came as a result of attacks down the flank.

The best example of this can be found in Gylfi Sigurdsson’s winner. Wilfried Bony took a free kick quickly, passing to Sigurdsson on the left. Sigurdsson left the ball for Montero on a overlapping run, and then made for the box.  Montero crossed to the back post, where Routledge, moved to the right when Montero came on for Dyer, hit the ball back across the face of the goal. Sigurdsson redirected the shot, straight into David de Gea’s feet, and the ball found it’s way in.

Montero and Routledge exposed United so easily because Phil Jones and Ashley Young, the psuedo-fullbacks, couldn’t keep up with them. Van Gaal saw this happening in the first half, and shifted from the initial 3-5-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 to give Jones and Young more cover. But it made no difference. Montero blasted past Jones time after time, almost at will. Young is more responsible for the second goal, because his poor marking left Routledge open at the far post.

Luke Shaw would have done better, and once he returns from injury, the United back line will grow more solid. However, Phil Jones can’t be a first choice full back, and Van Gaal has to add a right back, as well as central defenders and other positions, or else teams will be exploiting that weakness all season.

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s winner against United perfectly displays how the lack of fullbacks will kill United this season. Louis Van Gaal has to address the issue immediatly.


Swansea won the waiting game with United. Although at times Johnjo Shelvey (who needs to be dropped for Leon Britton) failed to follow the memo, the rest of the team executed the plan perfectly. The defense was super strong, covering for each others mistakes and holding firm against attacks. The midfield helped defend, and tried to retain possession whenever they could get it. Wilfried Bony, and later Bafetimbi Gomis, had the hardest job, having to make chances with little touches, and then settle into chasing defenders back and forth for minutes at a time.

Ki Sung-yueng scored the opening goal of the Premier League season on Saturday, a goal that displayed Swansea’s great teamplay and passing.

But the team held strong, and when in possession, even when United has evened the score and was pressing for another, the Swans didn’t press for a quick goal. Rather, they passed slowly and evenly, trying to keep as much possession as possible. Again the best example can be found in Swansea’s goal. In the opening goal, they passed the ball 26 times, before Ki Sung-yueng put the ball in the net. This patience allowed Swansea to pick and choose their attacks, and got the Swans three points.

Ashley Williams:

Williams captained the team and anchored the defense. While Jordi Amat, his central partner, at times gave Rooney/Mata too much space, and the fullbacks had troubles of their own (Rangel almost got a penalty for a handball, Neil Taylor was consistently beaten by Januzaj), Williams was strong.

He made several key stops, including one where Rooney had nutmegged and rounded him, in the box, and was about to pick his spot to hit past Lukasz Fabianksi.  But Ashley strechted out a leg and was able touch the ball out of Rooney’s reach and into Fabianski’s. He held down the Swansea back line, and led it home. Although he did lose Phil Jones on the corner that led to Rooney’s goal, Williams had an otherwise spotless game. He was easily man of the match, and will lead Swansea to safety.

Louis Van Gaal needs to take some obvious factors out of this game. His team is nowhere near where they need to be. The defense needs strengthening, and then the midfield. Swansea, and Garry Monk, on the other hand, can walk away completely triumphant. Their game plan worked, their new signings, Sigurdsson, Montero and Gomis, all featured, and their defense was strong. Monk won’t have to worry about relegation this season. If Swansea can show up like that for every game, then they will be safe by a mile.

Ashley Williams’ performance against United shows that his leadership and skill will be key to Swansea’s season.