Victory arrives, but United still a work in progress

Posted by Mark Payne

Adnan Januzaj action Manchester United SwanseaAllsportJanuzaj was United's inspiration once again.

For the time being, Manchester United have steadied the ship. Their 2-0 victory over Swansea City on Saturday at Old Trafford came much to the relief of the home fans, but there was precious little joy about it. The team and the club are in such a position now that grim determination is the order of the hour. Here at least, they got that much.

With United's neighbours in the Premier League table, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, collecting all three points before kickoff, the pressure on this most crucial of games managed to increase before the teams took the field. The Theatre of Dreams has become an ugly sideshow of late, and United's home form requires desperate improvement.

- Fletcher: Tempo was key

In this season of dissatisfaction, Adnan Januzaj has emerged as a source of constant delight. His composure on the ball unnerves opponents, and against Swansea he revealed a knack for taking set pieces, too. His free kick in the first half may have bounced back off the crossbar, but the strike was sensational.

Other than some fairly intermittent chances, it was a very tepid first half. Manchester United, denied the services of first-choice strike duo Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie due to injury, could find no breakthrough and recorded a miserable 34 percent of possession in the opening period. There were a smattering of boos at halftime from the congregation.

Whatever David Moyes said in the dressing room during the break had an effect. United came out with a determined look about them in the second half and scored within a minute. Januzaj feinted on the left wing and delivered a cross that Shinji Kagawa met with his head. The resulting save fell to Antonio Valencia, who smashed the ball home.

Manchester United fanzines United We Stand and Red Issue have run recent polls among the fans to test support for Moyes. Both surveys returned the broadly similar result that indicates supporters are in favour of giving the manager time. If news of this had reached Moyes, it didn't show. He remained impassive on the sidelines.

United were showing increased desire to get forward and Swansea were unable to dominate play as they had in the first 45 minutes. The home side were first to everything, with Patrice Evra bombing forward as usual and Kagawa putting in his best performance of the season.

Pressure was building on the Swansea goal and a half-chance for Januzaj wasn't cleared properly on the hour. Evra was quickest to the ball and prodded it forward again for Danny Welbeck to turn in and score a classic poacher's goal. It was his sixth strike in six games, and this was a completely different United than the one that started the game.

Swansea started to venture forward as the match wore on, but United remained a threat on the break with Kagawa increasingly influential. The home side came close to making it three when Rafael broke forward on the left with the Japanese playmaker in support. Kagawa, bringing the ball around the keeper, saw his shot cleared off the line.

Smiles could be seen on the home fans as United piled on the pressure, for the first time in awhile.

This win releases a bit of the steam that had built around the club after the nightmare start to the year. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of work to do by those on the field and in the boardroom. New faces are certainly needed, and the determination shown in the second half today needs to become a feature, not a cameo.

But United got the three points. Victory was absolutely essential, and in Januzaj, Welbeck and, for once, Kagawa, there were performances to encourage optimism. With a visit to Stamford Bridge up next, United will need more than optimism in their armoury, but a start has been made.

Mark Payne is the author of "Fergie's Last Stand," now available in paperback.

Follow him on Twitter @MarkJPayne.


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