United finally draw in cracker at Swansea

Posted by Mark Payne

All the pre-game chatter in Wales was about how to get tickets for the Real Madrid tie next year. It wasn't just the fans who weren't completely focused on the task at hand though. If United plan to field as many lacklustre players against the Spanish champions as they did versus Swansea, it won't be worth going.

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One man who did have the bit between his teeth at Swansea was Patrice Evra, who is having his best season for some time. The signing of Nikolas Buttner to challenge Evra's place has reinvigorated the Frenchman and, despite being the shortest player on the pitch, he rose majestically to head home an early corner. It was his third goal of the campaign, more than he has scored in the past ten years. Fergie should sign junior left-backs more often.

The lead didn't last long though. Michael Laudrup had sent his team out with their sleeves rolled up. His team are widely praised for their efficient passing football and this match was twenty minutes old before a foul had been committed. The scuffle later in the match, when a ball ricocheted off Robin van Persie's head, almost ruined what was a cracking game and a spirited, but fair contest.

Swansea have taken points from Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal this season. They also boast the league's top scorer in Michu who plundered another strike here. They are a side to be respected and a draw against them is a credible result. However, United created more than enough chances to win this game and the next. If Wayne Rooney had been more precise with some of his final touches, they would have taken them.

Rooney's afternoon was one full of frustration. Cynics will suggest that his form often slumps around the Christmas period. He was lively enough to be involved most of the time but nowhere near as lethal as he had been in recent weeks. It was telling that Ryan Giggs had more impact in the 12 minutes he was on the pitch than Rooney did in the previous 78.

Rooney was joined up front by Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, who also had bad days at the office. There are fears that Valencia's last injury might have been a knock too far. He has been a favourite in Mancunia for a while and will surely be given more time to try and regain sharpness. Young, on the other hand, was just sloppy and recorded the lowest pass completion rate of any midfielder on the pitch.

Next week the transfer window opens again and it is widely accepted that United will be willing to listen to offers for Nani if they are forthcoming. On this evidence, the temperamental Portuguese remains the most effective winger at the club. It can't have gone unnoticed that he resides in the higher echelons for assists over the past few years in this league.

His reputation has grown considerably in his absence and it looks like he will be needed for the rest of this season at least. It will be all hands to the pump for the remainder of the campaign. Somehow, Rafael Benitez has got Chelsea playing again. And it looks like they mean business.

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