Manchester United failed to make their second-half dominance count as Swansea held on for a 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium.
Both goals came in the opening period as Patrice Evra headed United in front from a corner after 16 minutes before Michu pulled the home side level just prior to to the half-hour mark.
Incredibly, it was United’s first draw of the season, although Sir Alex Ferguson must be wondering how as his side took charge after the break but were left frustrated as they struck the cross bar twice and failed to make the most of numerous good positions. Their lead at the top of the Premier League is now cut to four points over defending champions Manchester City.
It will go down as another good point for a Swansea side that continue to impress under Michael Laudrup.
Playing as the lone frontman, Michu gave Nemanja Vidic—making his first start since returning from injury—an early test as he raced onto a ball over the top but lashed wide of the near post.
It was a fairly cagey opening, though, as Swansea struggled to get numbers in support of the Spaniard and United were still trying to find their attacking rhythm. Proceedings did begin to open up after 15 minutes and it was United that produced the first concerted pressure.
Michael Carrick stroked a fine through ball to find Ashley Young in the area and the returning Michel Vorm made a good save at his near post from the winger’s first-time low effort. There was nothing Vorm could do from the resulting corner, however, as Swansea continued to prove vulnerable from set-pieces allowing Evra to rise at the near post to head Robin van Persie’s delivery into the far corner.
The goal scorer soon turned villain, as Evra’s poor defensive play cost United not for the first time this season. Wayne Routledge deserves plenty of credit for his one-touch through ball that took advantage of Evra failing to track Jonathan de Guzman. The midfielder on-loan from Villarreal struck a fierce shot that De Gea parried at his near post but only into the path of Michu, who side-footed home for his 13th league goal of the season.
Perhaps sensing their opponents’ defensive vulnerabilities, Swansea upped a gear and began to get forward in greater numbers. De Guzman eased Cleverley off the ball on the byline, but moving toward goal tried an ambitious effort at the near post that was comfortable for De Gea.
United too had a chance too to go into the break in front as Rooney struck tamely at Vorm when found in space from Evra’s pull back.
The second half began with plenty of entertainment as the teams went end to end in search of the match’s third goal.
For, Swansea Routledge’s shoot at the near post was blocked by De Gea, while United looked dangerous on the counter attack.
That threat from United quickly became more concerted as they took control of proceedings. Unusually for a side with so much attacking talent and that have scored more goals in the Premier League than anyone else this season, United consistently came up short with the final ball.
Rooney was particularly guilty and it was no surprise when he was replaced with United in search of a winner. Before he departed, he did at least provide an in-swinging cross that resulted in an audacious volley from Van Persie that sent the ball looping toward goal but agonizingly onto the top of the cross bar.
When United hit the cross bar for the second time, there was perhaps the feeling that it just wasn’t going to be their day. Swansea were left grateful for a tremendous save from Vorm to get the faintest of touches to help the ball onto the woodwork after Carrick had been left criminally free to head toward goal at the near post.
Still Swansea were holding on, never more apparent than when desperate blocks were required in quick succession from efforts from Van Persie and then Young. The second shot had United appealing for a penalty as Young’s shot struck the arm of Ben Davies, but, with his arm tucked into his body, it would have been a harsh call.
Despite the arrival of Javier Hernandez and veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes it ended in a frustrating afternoon for Ferguson. There was anger from Van Persie toward the end too as he reacted explosively to having a ball blasted at his head by Ashley Williams while the Dutchman lay on the turf.