Monday, 7 May 2012

Man Utd v Swansea City, Match Report, PL

We Belong.

Beaten, seemingly, by reputation initially, Swansea came back to regroup.

It's a question of Identity, as many will have heard me bang on about before now.

 Really, as we Swans have come to learn (sometimes painfully) over the years that we've made the transition from the brink of oblivion to the wonderland that we inhabit today, that remains the case.

I don't think many could argue against the fact that that in our first PL Season we've regularly surprised (and occasionally disappointed), but at least earned the credibility of being at the level we deserve.

Sunday's trip to the cathedral of English football that is Old Trafford went some way toward justifying the claim, advanced by some that we are, not surprisingly to our own,  a team that deserves watching in this enthralling Division.

However, it can also be proffered that early on we performed as if in awe of this great football temple - I can remember the Stamford Bridge fixture - and this was one of the few occasions where we seemed somewhat cowed in the early part of the game.

And that, my friends, is something we need to learn before next season. We can not allow the Home team - whatever their reputation - to assume the authority allowed today.

You will guess, from this, I am bitterly disappointed, and you would not be wrong. There is however a caveat. And, it's this.

Yes, I'm disappointed, but I'm certainly not despondent, and I suspect that along with a great many other JackArmy members, I'm somewhat proud. That pride comes from two sources - firstly the Team, who put in a second half that was a terrific performance, and brought that pride to the fore.

The second source was the magnificent JackArmy, who consistently bettered the Old Trafford crowd throughout the game and were a major reason that lifted the team I felt, and added to the tangibly bizarre atmosphere - a mixture of elation, nervousness and that self same pride - almost all of it coming from us Jacks.

The line ups were as follows....

Manchester United

01 De Gea, 03 Evra, 04 Jones, 05 Ferdinand (Rafael - 88' ), 12 Smalling, 16 Carrick, 18 Young, 22 Scholes (Cleverley - 68' ), 25 Valencia, 10 Rooney Booked (Berbatov - 78' ), 14 Hernandez

40 Amos, 21 Rafael, 11 Giggs, 13 Park Ji-sung, 17 Nani, 23 Cleverley, 09 Berbatov

Swansea City

01 Vorm, 02 Williams, 03 Taylor, 04 Caulker (Tate - 90' ), 22 Rangel, 11 Sinclair, 12 Dyer (Moore - 71' ), 24 Allen, 27 Gower (Britton - 46' ), 42 Sigurdsson, 10 Graham

25 Tremmel, 05 Tate, 16 Monk, 07 Britton, 15 Routledge, 17 McEachran, 19 Moore

Ref: Foy
Att: 75,496

For Swansea, Leon Britton, who had struggled through the week with a leg problem started on the bench, and SAF put out what was his strongest side many would say.

Take a look at that crowd figure above - far and away the biggest crowd that's ever seen the Swans in a league match. That is some honour.

United started the game at double quick tempo, tearing at the Swans, and putting on immediate pressure in the hope that the Welshmen would crack, and feeding the notion that Utd could fill their boots in their quest to claw back some goal difference advantage from their neighbours Man City, who had earlier won stirringly at Newcastle to tug the PL title away from these serial winners.

Whilst the Swans stuttered with only a Nathan Dyer curler that went over the bar to show for their troubles, Michel Vorm was forced into decent saves from Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney early.

Despite a rocky period of intense pressure from the Home side, the Swansea defence, led magnificently by Ash Williams was standing firm in denial, and the opening goal did not come until almost the half hour mark.

Antonio Valencia's strong running had been reintroduced to the side for the ineffectual Luis Nani, and he tricked Neil Taylor before putting in a good cross from the right which was met by Michael Carrick, closing in on goal.

His immediate right foot drive was diverted on its way to goal by the everlasting Paul Scholes to frustrate and beat Vorm's dive and nestle safely in the net.

1-0, and it felt as if the dam had burst.

It was also as if a huge weight had been lifted from the Man Utd crowd, as for the first time proper it found its voice, and, since it was regularly mocked throughout by the loud Jacks with "Is this a Library" featuring regularly and fondly, it felt more like a real fixture than it had thus far.

You could tell too that their players were energised, rushing to get the ball back into play regularly, even from the goals.

The second came just 4m short of the half time whistle, and is notable mainly again for the sight of Ashley Young, the scorer, ripping it from the net out of Vorm's hands to get back to the kick off. Again though, it came about from a mistake and a mis-hit.

Scott Sinclair put Utd in possession from unusually poor control, and the ultimate grubber of a shot from Rooney ran loose to Ashley Young, in much the same position as Danny Graham's goal for us v Wolves last week.

Young, too, gave it much the same sort of finish, curling his effort neatly inside Vorm's left hand post to put the Red Devils 2-0 ahead.

At this stage the Swans were genuinely rocking and wobbling such was the pressure, and before half time Javier Hernandez almost added a third.

I think I can say that we Swans were glad to get to the break with the score still at 2, and it was obvious BR had some motivating and organizing to do in the interval. I'm delighted to say that this was obviously what he did, and it's another reason to be cheerful about our excellent Manager.

The second period saw a different game, with Swansea far more committed, and as the half progressed, it slowly seemed to dawn on Utd and their fawning supporters that this wasn't going to be the rout that they'd dared to dream of.

In the 53rd minute a Gylfi Sigurdsson drive was turned behind by De Gea for instance, and on the hour mark a Joe Allen effort was turned toward goal by Danny Graham, and again De Gea was forced to intervene.

It was around this point too that the JackArmy came up with it's killer chant - namely "Eight Points, and you fucked it up", sung to the tune of "Go West" by the Pet Shop Boys. I didn't know whether to laugh or sing. I did both.

Now it may or may not be co-incidental, but at half time Leon Britton had come on for the struggling Mark Gower, but Swansea's burst into genuine competitiveness can't be that lightly brushed aside, can it?

Whatever, Britton had assumed his role at the base of the Midfield 3, and this saw a far more effective performance from Joe Allen particularly, whilst Sigurdsson slipped into his now familiar role of threat on the break.

By now too, both Sinclair and Dyer wide were linking far better with Taylor and Rangel, and Swansea had a presence in the game at last.

Graham continued to work particularly hard, with his selfless running often the out-ball for a pressed defence, marshalled admirably and capably by Williams and Caulker.

As the clock ran down, you could almost see the frustration on the Utd faces, both crowd and players, signalled by Rooney's desperate attempt at a tackle on Britton that saw him receive his first yellow card of the year.

With Rooney, if you can get him into this psychological state of frustration you know as an opposition you're doing things right, and it was was no surprise to see him replaced by Berbatov on 78m.

SAF had already indicated things weren't going to plan by replacing the aging Scholes with young Tom Cleverly on 68m, and his last throw of the dice saw him throw on Rafael for the fading Rio Ferdinand just before the end, but by then it was obvious that Utd had fallen short of their ambitions.

For us Swans it had felt as the game progressed that this was one we were getting more and more into, to emerge at the end with a disappointing defeat, yes, but concrete and visible proof that we belong in this division.

Graham, Dyer and Sigurdsson again went close for the Swans, and Hernandez, Rooney and Berbatov all threatened for Utd, but this tells you that the Swans were almost giving as good as they got, and the performance was one to put real pride into all us Jacks.

Coupled with that there was a nice touch for us when , along with his substitution of Nathan Dyer with Luke Moore on 71m, right at the end the wonderful Alan Tate replaced Steven Caulker, thus confirming further our Manager's respect for tradition and circumstance and his ability to use it to our advantage.

I've heard the irascible Adrian Durham, talkSport's resident ginger whinger, criticise this move on the radio today because, to quote, " It shows no ambition". Eat dirt, you Peterborough supporting plonker. You just don't get it, do you?

For Alan Tate, and his family, this will have been a proud moment. Respect all round, Durham excluded.

When the whistle blew on a 2-0 scoreline it almost felt like a vindication. Hey, you can never ever be satisfied by a defeat, but you can be satisfied by a proud and noble performance and response - and this was certainly that.

Both Managers' Interviews can be found here.

After taking a pasting first half, the dogged determination of the second bodes well for the future. We can more than survive, we can thrive.

The consolation we'll have, of course, is that our journey back to South Wales is likely to be as short as a journey to Esher or thereabouts, which many Utd "fans" may be facing. Bon voyage, indeed.

So that's our Away season put in the books, and whilst our record of 4-4-11 with a goal tally of 17-33 isn't a particularly strong one, for our first season it will do, particularly, coupled as it is with a more impressive Home statistic, which, moreover, can be improved when we take on King Kenny's Scoucers at the bouncing Lib in our final game.

This has been a fantastic season, and I plan to write about that at a future date, but for now let's be satisfied with a visit to every and all opponent in this division, and coming away from almost every one with the opposition saying  saying " Wow- they're a decent team" and Wow, wow, "Bloody hell, they can sing!".

Onward, the JackArmy and,

Onward, Swansea City.

Another favourite chant of the day....

"Fergie- you're gonna win fuck all".

and - the Mancini song.

Lovely. Roll on Liverpool.

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