Wayne Rooney made a much-scrutinized appearance off the bench but it was the man who has usurped his importance to Manchester United who grabbed the headlines on the opening day of the Premier League season. Robin van Persie wasted no time in continuing his feats from last season with two fine goals to help David Moyes begin his reign with a comfortable 4-1 win over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.
After Swansea had enjoyed the better of the opening half hour, Van Persie and Danny Welbeck scored in the space of two minutes to ultimately decide the contest played in consistent rain in South Wales. While the home side provided more of a goal-threat in the second half with the introduction of new signing Wilfried Bony, Van Persie’s spectacular second with 18 minutes remaining sealed the three points. Bony did pull one back with a neat finish from 12 yards, but the three-goal margin was restored with a stylish finish giving Welbeck his second of the match.
The performance may have been more clinical than spectacular, but Moyes will have been delighted to start with a win in what was a tricky start to the campaign and with matches to follow in the coming weeks against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
And in Van Persie, United continue to have a man who can win points almost single-handedly. Swansea largely controlled the game early on with Michael Laudrup’s side again showcasing their ability to keep the ball as well as winning it back quickly when it was lost. Yet, with Bony starting on the bench after playing for Ivory Coast in New Jersey in midweek and Michu leading the line in his less favored position, Swansea failed to provide seriously trouble their opponents’ defense.
And before they knew what had happened, United had taken a 2-0 lead and effectively taken the game away from them. To Laudrup’s frustration, both goals were easily preventable. The first came in the 34th minute when Ryan Giggs directed a hopeful lofted ball into the area toward Van Persie, who was being played onside by Swansea’s two full-backs. After missed clearances by the other two members of the home side’s faltering back line, last season’s top scorer got off the mark this term with a superb shoulder-height volley into the net.
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Still shell-shocked by that blow, Swansea’s deficit was doubled less than two minutes later. With three defenders drawn to contest a cross with Van Persie, when the ball bounced through to the back post Antonio Valencia was unmarked and the winger showed awareness to stick it back across the six-yard box for Welbeck to tap home.
Realizing the need for more attacking thrust, Laudrup introduced both Bony and Pablo Hernandez at the interval. Last season’s Eiredivisie top scorer gave an early indication of what he’ll bring to Swansea by nodding the ball down for the on-running Michu who just couldn’t get a clean shot away as David de Gea closed him out.
United continued to pose a threat at the other end and Van Persie could even have had more to show for his day’s efforts. A flick on from Valencia off a long ball forward sent the Dutchman away but on this occasion he put his shot from the corner of the six-yard box wide of the far post.
It was ultimately not a miss that was to linger long in the memory. Not long after coming on, Rooney helped the ball into Van Persie’s path and continued his run to divert attention away allowing the former Arsenal man the smallest of spaces he needed to send an unstoppable shot flying into the net.
Swansea would be rewarded for their not inconsiderable efforts when Bony, having previously put a header wide from point-blank range, finished clinically with a low shot from 12 yards. Still, it was the visitors that would have the final say. Rooney again played his part by slipping an intelligent ball into Welbeck and the England forward matched the pass with an even better finish as he chipped the ball over goalkeeper Michel Vorm to the delight of his new manager on the touchline.