Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City
I’ve become fed up of commenting this season on how United fell to defeat at home to an organised but fairly unremarkable visiting side, but unfortunately that’s what happened again. The only slight difference is that the Swans probably would have settled for a draw had Fabio’s wild challenge not left United with only ten men and clearly there for the taking. While United could have done without a cup replay in an already busy January fixture list, this was far worse.
Although United enjoyed the best of the early possession, they went behind immediately after missing a clear chance when Chicharito scuffed a shot from the kind of position in which he’d normally be ruthless. From there, Swansea went up the other end and took the lead, Routledge finding himself with only Lindegaard to beat and calmly looping the ball over the keeper. Thankfully, the Mexican was given the opportunity make amends for his earlier miss in the sixteenth minute when he found himself on the end of an excellent Buttner cross and this time made no mistake.
Although Chicharito put his awkward start behind him and became an increasing threat to the Swansea defence as the half went on, a further chance falling to him when he latched onto a long ball from Evans only to fire his volley wide, the partnership with Welbeck up front never looked promising. While Buttner continued to supply repeated ammunition from the left and Fletcher alternately broke down and set up play from midfield, United looked in a position to take more of a grip on the game in the run up to half-time. Frustratingly, the Reds failed to build on this in the second half and the extra body in the Swansea midfield allowed the visitors to keep United at bay for long periods.
Not only that, but by cutting off the supply route to Chicharito, and getting tight on Fletcher, the Swans effectively nullified what had been the only sources of danger. Things got worse for United when Ferdinand was forced off through injury and then his replacement, Fabio, was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge within minutes of his arrival. Those United fans who repeatedly ask why the Brazilian doesn’t get more games may find their answer in a challenge that, while not malicious, was impetuous and ugly in an area of the field where there was no danger whatsoever: in short, it exuded an inexcusable naivety at this level. Already finding it difficult to find space in midfield, the Reds were now presented with the problem of doing so with ten men. Swansea signalled their own intentions by putting on an extra forward to put further pressure on the patched-up United side.
For a while it looked as it United would hold out and head for a replay at a ground that, much like our own, hasn’t exactly been a fortress this season, but Bony popped up with a decisive header to give the Welsh side victory and consign the Reds to an early dismissal from the FA Cup. It was, needless to say, another depressing afternoon at an Old Trafford that has now witnessed only one home win (to a hapless West Ham side) alongside four defeats in the last five domestic fixtures.