Rooney ends goal drought to seal victory
Wayne Rooney scored a long-awaited winner as Manchester United ended their Swansea City hoodoo with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford on Saturday to ease some of the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal.
The Dutch manager had lost each of his previous three meetings with Swansea by the same scoreline, including his Premier League bow back in August 2014.
However, Rooney produced a sublime finish 13 minutes from time to earn United a first win in nine in all competitions.
After dominating the early stages, Van Gaal’s men allowed Swansea back into the match, with Morgan Schneiderlin surviving penalty claims for an alleged handball.
But the breakthrough came two minutes into the second half when the impressive Ashley Young supplied the cross for Anthony Martial to score his eighth United goal.
Swansea refused to go down without a fight and, after Andre Ayew hit a post, Gylfi Sigurdsson restored parity with a looping 70th-minute header.
However, Rooney had the final say, with his flicked finish sending United into the top five and Swansea remaining a position above the relegation zone.
Phil Jones came into the United defence in place of Matteo Darmian, while Swansea reverted to a more familiar starting XI after ringing the changes for Monday’s goalless draw at Crystal Palace, with Jonjo Shelvey axed from the matchday squad.
United put in a much-improved performance when they were held by Chelsea last time out and made another bright start on Saturday, with Ander Herrera having a shot blocked in the box by Federico Fernandez early on.
Swansea settled as the half progressed and Wayne Routledge’s volley force David De Gea into his first save, before the visitors’ calls for a penalty were rejected when Schneiderlin’s acrobatic clearance struck his own hand in the United box.
Rooney climbed to power a header goalwards nine minutes from the break, only to see the ball bounce back off the heel of Jack Cork, who avoided punishment for what could have been deemed to be a backpass soon after.
Young was a constant threat down the right wing and carved out two more opportunities prior to the half-time whistle – rounding Leon Britton and cutting back for Juan Mata to draw a save from Lukasz Fabianski before the goalkeeper also kept out a Rooney header from the England winger’s cross.
The warning signals were there for Swansea and Young proved instrumental as United took the lead two minutes into the second half.
The 30-year-old’s ball in from the right found its way to Martial, whose downward header beat Fabianski.
United’s last two Premier League defeats from leading positions have come against Swansea and they will have been fearing the worst when Ayew headed against the post shortly after the hour mark.
Angel Rangel was subsequently booked when he was judged to have dived in the box as he chased the rebound, but Sigurdsson – scorer of the winner at Old Trafford last season – netted the leveller from a Modou Barrow cross.
However, Rooney – without a Premier League goal since October 17 – applied an improvised finish to a Martial ball into the box in the 77th minute.
De Gea came to the rescue when Ashley Williams unleashed an instinctive drive in the closing stages and goalkeeper Fabianski headed narrowly wide from a corner with the last action of the match, but United held on to end their winless run.
Key Opta stats:
– Wayne Rooney scored his 188th Premier League goal and is now the outright second top goalscorer behind Alan Shearer in Premier League history (260).
– Rooney is also now the outright second top goalscorer in Manchester United history (238 goals) surpassing Denis Law’s total (237).
– England skipper Rooney ended a run of 553 minutes without a goal for the club (in all comps).
– Anthony Martial scored and assisted in the same Premier League game for the first time.
– Both of Ashley Young’s league assists this season have been for Anthony Martial (also v Liverpool).