After a comeback victory in the FA Cup, Manchester United hoped to continue their winning ways. Three points and a victory were essential to their top four finish hopes, especially against middle of the league table. Manchester United sputtered this weekend, dropping the three points and losing their second meeting with Swansea City.
Van Gaal selected David De Gea in net, Paddy McNair at right back, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones at centerbacks, Luke Shaw at left back, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Daley Blind, Ángel Di María in midfield, and Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie in striking positions.
Early in the game, Ander Herrera became a hero, clearing a Bafetimbi Gomis' header off the goal line. Herrera would net the first goal of the match off a brilliant passing move by United. Angel Di Maria looked off his pass, a well-weighted layoff ahead of Herrera, who placed his shot bound for the left corner and received a slight, helpful deflection off defender Ashley Williams. United 1, Swansea 0.
United's lead was brief and fleeting, however. Ki Sung-Yong would equalize just two minutes afterwards. Breaking across Luke Shaw's face, he found Jonjo Shelvey's cross in the box and stroked it into the net. United 1, Swansea 1. In the second half, he nearly gave Swansea the lead after linking up with another Shelvey cross, but this time, De Gea proved more than up to the task.
At halftime, manager Louis Van Gaal opted for fresh legs, substituting Ashley Young for Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia for Paddy McNair. United dominated the possession, despite the letdown of surrendering the equalizing goal, but failed to place their scoring chances on frame. Marcos Rojo knocked an open header on a corner way over the crossbar, Daley Blind failed to strike a Fellaini headed layoff pass on frame, Robin Van Persie found the side net with his stronger left foot.
Despite their prominent advantage in possession, the game did not remain level. Jonjo Shelvey would play United's tormenter yet again, finding some open space from 30 yards out and hitting a well-struck shot that deflected off teammate Bafetimbi Gomis' head and past David De Gea.
With the majority of the possession, United certainly had their opportunity to level the game and the mood felt that United could perform some late game heroics and claim at least a point. United's efforts fell short, however, as they were unable to garner shots on net. Swansea completed their first ever double against Manchester United.
After all the week's results, United find themselves in fourth place on the league table, just one point behind Arsenal, third place, and one point ahead of Southampton, fifth place. A top four finish becomes ever more difficult as Liverpool begins to come into form, Tottenham strings together points, and United continue to drop points. Even more bad news, Van Persie left the Liberty Stadium on crutches with his right foot in a protective boot, after injuring his ankle. Despite the injury to Van Persie, United's team is far healthier than earlier this year. Still, consistency in squad selection remains an issue for Van Gaal. Rafael, finally deemed fit to play, has failed to reclaim his starting role at right wing back, even losing out to the youngster Paddy McNair. Radamel Falcao, paid an alarming $350,000, fails to make it onto the field.
United play their next Barclays Premier League match against Sunderland at home on Saturday, February 28th at 10:00am EST. United also have to remain vigilant in their quest for silverware in the FA Cup tournament, facing Arsenal at home on Monday, March 9th at 3:45pm EST.