Louis van Gaal made a losing start to his Premier League career with Manchester United on Saturday, with Swansea winning 2-1 to become the first away team since 1972 to open the season with a victory at Old Trafford.
Gylfi Sigurdsson seized on poor defending to net the Welsh club’s winner in the 72nd minute after United captain Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick canceled out Ki Sung-Yeung’s first-half opener.
“We never played as a team – that is our error,” Van Gaal told BT Sport television. “But I think we have to always keep the head up and use the second step in our process better than we have done today.”
Van Gaal was hired by United to revive the 20-time English champions’ fortunes after the team finished seventh under David Moyes last season following the retirement of Alex Ferguson. Van Gaal only began work officially a month ago after leading the Netherlands to a third-place finish at the World Cup.
“We are not reaching our level that was built up already over four weeks,” the Dutch manager said on United’s TV channel, referring to the team’s preseason tour of the United States.
“We make steps and you have to learn from your steps.”
Moyes may have gone, but the same problems remain for United. The team lacked a cutting edge up front and the passing was sloppy at times. But the main concern for Van Gaal will be in defense. Both Sigurdsson and Ki were unmarked when they beat goalkeeper David de Gea.
There was a clear lack of organization at times in defense, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both looking out of their comfort zone on several occasions thanks to Swansea’s enterprising play and neat passing.
United appeared to be missing the experience of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, who all left over the summer.
Swansea managed to test United’s new-look three-man defense early on as Wayne Routledge raced on to Jonjo Shelvey’s throughball, but David De Gea came to the rescue. Routledge then gave Jones the slip down United’s right, but his cross was cut out just before Wilfried Bony could convert.
In an early setback for United, midfielder Jesse Lingard, making his full debut, was replaced by Adnan Januzaj after injuring his right foot in a challenge with Ashley Williams.
Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was tested for the first time midway through the first half when he saved Jones’ blistering shot after a clever one-two with Juan Mata.
Old Trafford was silenced in the 28th minute when Swansea took the lead. Tyler Blackett, who was making his United debut in defense, was drawn out of position by Nathan Dyer, who laid the ball off to Sigurdsson. The Iceland international squared to Ki, who fired the ball past a diving De Gea.
Van Gaal sought to inject life into his team at halftime by bringing Nani on for the ineffective Javier Hernandez, who started up front in place of the unfit Robin van Persie.
Within eight minutes of the restart United was level. Jones climbed well to flick on Mata’s corner and Rooney acrobatically hooked the ball past Fabianski.
Van Gaal didn’t celebrate, recording the goal on his notepad and looking up with a blank expression.
Rooney then came close to putting United ahead from a free kick, but the ball struck the frame and bounced wide.
And Swansea secured the points shortly afterward. Routledge mis-hit Jefferson Montero’s cross, but the ball fell at the feet of Sigurdsson, who bundled it past De Gea.
With United fans starting to leave their seats early, United pressed forward in injury time but couldn’t create any serious chances for a second equalizer.