Manchester United ended their horrendous eight-match winless run in all competitions as Wayne Rooney scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Swansea City in the Premier League this afternoon.
Anthony Martial’s 47th-minute opener was cancelled out by Gylfi Sigurdsson midway through the second half, before an ailing Rooney showed that he can still be the hero that United desperately need.
The three points lift the Red Devils up to fifth in the table, two points adrift of the Champions League places. Swansea remain the same distance above trouble after a first loss in three matches.
United started with the same improved vigour and urgency which they showed in their 0-0 draw with Chelsea, from which Phil Jones in for Matteo Darmian in defence was the solitary lineup change.
Some nice interplay between Spanish pals Juan Mata and Ander Herrera created an opening for the Red Devils inside 30 seconds, only for Ashley Williams to make a crucial block from the latter’s shot.
But Swansea, who have plagued Van Gaal ever since his arrival in England – winning all three of their encounters with the Dutchman’s United side – otherwise took some breaking down in the early stages.
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And United soon reverted to form – plenty of possession but not at a pace which stretched Swansea or provoked chances, and familiar groans could soon be heard from the frustrated home supporters.
United have not scored a first-half goal at home in the Premier League since September and have drawn five of their last eight matches at Old Trafford 0-0. No wonder Van Gaal is under pressure.
Rooney’s struggles have been central to United’s problems. The England captain had sights of goal either side of the half-hour mark, but drilled into the side-netting, and later headed against a defender.
Swansea, still under the guidance of caretaker boss Alan Curtis almost a month after sacking Garry Monk, grew in confidence and Wayne Routledge tested David de Gea with a bobbling shot.
The Old Trafford faithful were appeased two minutes into the second half as Ashley Young crossed for Martial to head into the ground and past Lukasz Fabianski for his eighth goal of the season.
The breakthrough seemed to encourage United to attack and they had good chances to extend their advantage when Rooney struck straight at Fabianski and Herrera blazed over from the edge of the box.
Swansea came within inches of levelling when Sigurdsson lifted a ball over the top for Andre Ayew, who scored the winning goal in September’s reverse fixture. His header was unfortunate to hit the post.
Sigurdsson’s own header saw the Swans equalise on 70 minutes. Substitute Modou Barrow made a real impact and supplied the Icelandic midfielder with a lovely cross which he flicked over De Gea.
It was a goal which looked as though it might pile more misery on Van Gaal, but Rooney came up with a 77th-minute goal which saved both he and his manager more probing post-match questions.
Martial was the creator, dribbling through a couple of Swansea defenders to get to the left byline and square for Rooney to smartly flick the ball inside the far post for his first league goal since October.
The 30-year-old has now overtaken Andy Cole in the Premier League all-time scoring charts with 188, and surpassed Denis Law’s tally of 237 goals for the Red Devils. He is now second on both lists.
A rare highlight of Rooney’s season was almost ruined in dramatic circumstances as Swans goalkeeper Fabianski strode forward for a stoppage-time corner which he headed narrowly over the crossbar.
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