The Louis van Gaal era at Manchester United got off to a terrible start as Swansea City grabbed a stunning victory to kick-off the Premier League season.
More than 75,000 came to see the dawn of a new era – the Louis Van Gaal era and it’s promise – but they left having seen the same primary schoolish defending that blighted their last season.
The dynasties of Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson meant that new starts are always treasured here. They carry the hope that there’s plenty to come, even though there is nothing to savor at the moment.
Gilfi Sugurdsson’s winner in the 72nd minute spoiled the party for the Dutchman as he sat in Alex Ferguson’s seat with his predecessor David Moyes’ facial expression at the end of the game.
To Swansea’s credit, they treated this a a regular game with the regular three points at stake – no parties for their debutants Lukasz Fabianski and Bafetimbi Gomis.
Van Gaal discovered two things in his first 45 minutes of Premier League football: the English top tier is as tough as Liverpool adversary Brendan Rodgers warned him it was, and it will take a lot more than he’d thought to undo the Moyes error.
After holding United at bay for the first ten minutes, Swansea remembered that they won here in the FA Cup, during Moyes’ time, but then again so did many other teams during that ill-fated spell.
Balls in behind for Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer from either Jonjo Shelvey or Gilfi Sigurdsson was how Swansea planned to spoil the party.
And 19 minutes into the new LVG era, Angel Rangel lobbed for Dyer, who found Sigurdsson on his inside, who turned as if to shoot before finding Ki Sung-Yueng.
The Korean flipped the script here with a well-placed side-footed goal that left De Gea sprawling and the Old Trafford faithful eerily silent.
Van Gaal tried to bring a lot of freshness about his first game, putting Jesse Lingard, Tyler Blackett and Ander Herrera in for their Premier League debuts.
But halfway through the first half Lingard limped off with a suspected Achilles injury, necessitating a change from the famed 3-5-2 to a makeshift 4-4-2, with Ashley Young dropping to left back and Phil Jones moving to right back.
United has a long tradition of bouncing back, either from shoreline deficits or from periods of underachievement.
Saturday we saw that it still had one of the too but the United fans hoped that the latter would be true come the end of the season, after the tragic empty handedness of Moyes’ reign.
Wayne Rooney equalised for a United early in the second half, to a heavy breath of fresh air. Juan Mata put a corner in that Jones flicked on. Rooney pounced with an overhead kick: 1-1.
But the Red Devils – frail and insecure, depleted by injury and rust – conspired to fall behind again with some amateurish defending.
Allowed to take a quick free kick in the middle of the park, Swansea charged forward with Sigurdsson and Jefferson Montero and spread the United defence thin.
Montero whipped a ball in that found Routledge unmarked at the far post, who squared back in for Sigurdsson, who poked in a ball that David de Gea should have gathered but fumbled goalwards instead.
This was punishment for the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra being allowed to leave.
In the end Van Gaal resorted to Moyes-like tactics by putting Marouane Felleini up front with Rooney looking for an equaliser.
It didn’t work and Van Gaal suffered his first Old Trafford defeat at first bite.