Following news that City had all but clinched the title with their victory at Newcastle, United faced the difficult challenge of seeing off Swansea City at Old Trafford, knowing that only a heavy victory would see them regain the initiative in the title race. Fergie’s decision to change formation in the game against City the following week raised many eyebrows, and the boss responded in kind with a more familiar United side, with Ashley Young, Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia all returning to the side.
With a 10 goal deficit to make up, United went about their work with purpose in the early stages, keen to end their home campaign in style. Swansea, who have impressed this season with their brand of attractive possession football, were keen to impose their style upon United as they have done many other sides this season. However, some intelligent United pressing was keeping the visitors penned in as the reds cranked up the pressure, and looked to prize open the door. A string of corners lead to the first chance of the afternoon, as a poor clearance fell to Patrice Evra, whose left footed volley was well parried by Swans keeper Vorm, who reacted well to Rooney’s left footed follow up to keep the scores level.
United were not to be denied for long however, as on the half hour mark Valencia ghosted past Taylor down the right hand side, before cutting back to Carrick, and his shot was superbly diverted home by none other than Paul Scholes, perhaps making his final bow at Old Trafford, to give United a deserved lead. Javier Hernandez should have doubled United’s lead just minutes later, steering Michael Carrick’s excellent cross wide, having failed to make proper contact, summing up a relatively disappointing season for the Mexican striker. United’s search for goals was seemingly frustrating them as they continued to pursue the unlikely feat of hauling in the goal difference deficit. Ashley Young however provided a very slight glimmer of hope on the brink of half time though, collecting Rooney’s blocked shot and curling past a despairing Vorm dive, giving the reds a perfectly timed boost.
With plenty still to do in order to lift the glum mood around Old Trafford, Swansea appeared to be lambs to the slaughter against a United side keen to vent their frustration. Brendan Rodgers’ side could be forgiven for rolling over having already achieved safety and with seemingly little to play for, but the visitors made an impressive account of themselves in the second half. David De Gea, a spectator for much of the afternoon, was called into action as Joe Allen’s shot was deflected off Danny Graham, De Gea however was quick to adjust his feet and saved well. Nathan Dyer squandered the visitors best chance on the hour mark, skewing his shot horrible wide with the goal at his mercy, with United opening up in search for more goals.
At the other end, chances were arriving at regular intervals, but things were not quite clicking for the United front two. Rooney, who has largely been in poor form despite his excellent goals return, missed the best chance of the half, sending his shot inches wide of Vorm’s post from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy. Dimitar Berbatov, on likely his last appearance for the club, nearly reminded the fans what they would miss, with a delightful pass to substitute Tom Cleverley in stoppage time, but the young midfielder’s shot was well saved by Vorm, as United failed to add to their tally from the first half. Hauling back the goal difference was never likely, but a comfortable win for the reds sends the title race down to the last day, with only a Manchester City draw or defeat followed by a United win giving the reds an seemingly impossible title win.
DDG – 7 Great save from Allen in second half.
Jones – 6 Crossing poor throughout.
Ferdinand – 6 Exposed slightly as United opened up 2nd half.
Smalling – 7 Recovered well from Monday’s disappointment.
Evra – 7 One of United’s best attacking threats.
Valencia – 8 Showed why he should have started on Monday.
Scholes – 8 MOTM Sublime goal and passing masterclass.
Carrick – 7 Strong in the tackle and great passing.
Young – 7 Threatened throughout and took goal brilliantly.
Rooney – 6 Indifferent performance.
Hernandez – 5 Poor season continues, confidence looks low.
Cleverley – 6 Added energy and made positive impact.
Berbatov – 6 Languid mixed with touches of class.
Rafael – 6