Louis van Gaal found no instant fix for Manchester United as a new era dawned at Old Trafford with a dispiriting 2-1 opening-day home defeat by Swansea City in the Premier League on Saturday.
After a buoyant pre-season campaign, United fans arrived full of hope that Van Gaal would quickly right the wrongs of last season under David Moyes but Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 72nd-minute winner left them deflated and underlined the task the vastly-experienced Dutch coach faces.
Captain Wayne Rooney had cancelled out Ki Sung-yueng’s opener for the visitors shortly after halftime but Sigurdsson condemned United to their first opening-day top flight defeat at Old Trafford for 42 years.
“It’s more than disappointing for the fans,” said Van Gaal who was without Dutch striker Robin van Persie through injury. “They are expecting a lot because we have won every game in pre-season. Then you lose the first match. That’s disappointing for the fans, also for the players and also for me. It’s a very bad day for us.”
Tottenham Hotspur, who finished one place above United in sixth place last season, began life under new manager Mauricio Pochettino with a 1-0 victory at London rivals West Ham United thanks to a stoppage-time goal from new signing Eric Dier.
Both sides ended the match with 10 men after Kyle Naughton was sent off for Spurs for handball in the opening period and James Collins saw red in the second half. Mark Noble missed a penalty for West Ham.
Most of the sides playing at home failed to win although promoted Leicester City twice battled back to draw 2-2 with Everton. West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland also shared four goals — Saido Berahino scoring twice for the hosts.
Queens Park Rangers were beaten 1-0 at home by Hull City on their return to the top flight, missing a penalty in the process, while Aston Villa earned a notable three points with a 1-0 win at Stoke City — Andreas Weimann grabbing the goal.
Meanwhile, managerless Crystal Palace’s week took another turn for the worse when they conceded a stoppage-time goal in a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday on Premier League season’s opening day.
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey pounced as the clock moved past 90 minutes to complete a comeback win for the Gunners who had trailed after 35 minutes to a Brede Hangeland header. Arsenal equalised on the stroke of halftime when Laurent Koscielny headed in a free kick from new signing Alexis Sanchez.
A year ago almost to the day Manchester United enjoyed a comfortable victory at Swansea but it proved one of the few highlights for Moyes who was sacked in May.
LACK OF PACE
The problems so evident last season, notably a lack of pace and invention, returned to haunt the 20-times champions who looked shapeless and vulnerable throughout. United dominated possession in the first half but offered little attacking verve against a Swansea side content to sit deep and wait for the occasional counter-attack.
One such break saw Nathan Dyer flick the ball on to Sigurdsson down the right and the Iceland international burst forward before teeing up Ki to beat keeper David De Gea.
Rooney hooked in Juan Mata’s corner in the 53rd minute to restore parity and then clipped the post with a curling free kick as the home side looked set for a comeback victory. However, Swansea had other ideas and substitute Jefferson Montero’s dangerous cross caused problems in United’s unfamiliar-looking defence and the ball was eventually knocked to Sigurdsson, back at Swansea after leaving Spurs, to fire home.