Stinging lesson for Swans could have value

Posted by Max Hicks

The scoreline of Swansea's 4-1 loss in their season opener to David Moyes' Manchester United at home on Saturday might appear to make a mockery of the Swans' fine preseason form. On paper, it is a resolute thrashing. In reality, the reigning champions' extra class turned what had been a very close game into a comfortable away win. Ultimately, the Swans were given a reminder of a lesson the third-year Premier League club learned two seasons ago -- that if you make mistakes against the best you'll always be punished.

With four blots on their copybook, the Swans defence make an easy scapegoat for United's free scoring on Saturday. They were forced to play dunce to United's quick wits, although it is significant that three of United's four goals were of the highest quality.

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Neither Ash Williams nor Chico Flores endeared themselves to goalkeeper Michael Vorm by each swinging and missing at a high ball played to a double-teamed Robin van Persie, who improvised to make United's first. Contrasted with Nemanja Vidic's assured proactivty which so often neutralised the Swans own scoring threat, the Swans centre halves uncertainty proved costly. It was the first reminder that at this level, a lapse of concentration or composure at the wrong moment can be ruinous.

Within two minutes United had doubled their lead, taking advantage of a humiliated Swans defence still reeling from van Persie's first. Antonio Valencia was left open after a moment of ball-chasing from the Swans defence, and Danny Welbeck's tap-in broke the last of Swansea's resolve. Conceding a tap-in after being undressed from some fairly routine build-up play is never going to inspire much confidence.

It's difficult to say whether it can be considered a form of flattery that, the ugly tap-in aside, United needed highlight-reel quality goals to beat the Swans defence. In the standings, no one will remember which of those goals were worth preserving, and regardless of United's finesse finishing, all four came after defensive lapses.

After a summer of record spending from Swansea which saw significant additions made in midfield and attack, is it fair to be critical that perhaps not enough was done to push the defence? Granted, Chico missed much of the Swans preseason with an injury, and seemed a yard off the pace when he was too easily turned for Welbeck's second. He wasn't at his best, and when fully fit, we might see the return of the formidable partnership he created with Williams so often in evidence last season.

In the meantime, the Swans won't need to spend too much time in the video room trying to figure out what went wrong. The Swans made a handful of small mistakes which United had both the quality and the confidence to punish, and against the best, that difference is enough to undermine the flawless approach through the preseason and a Europa League tie to the Premier League's opening weekend.

At least there is a silver lining -- record-signing Wilfried Bony made his league debut from the bench and scored with a display of his own quality, and the Swans attacking play was generally sharp. Swansea might not struggle to score as much this year, and although the few mistakes made by the Swans defence produced an unflattering scoreline, the comprehensive refresher course dished out by United should actually put Michael Laudrup's men in good stead for the rest of the campaign.

After all, this wasn't a game the Swans were expected to get a result from, and a lesson in defending from the likes of van Persie is worth three points. The Swans, who host Petrolul Ploiesti on Thursday in the Europa League and visit Tottenham next Sunday in the Premier League, should be better next time out.

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