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Five things we learned from Swansea vs United

Swansea-vs-Manchester-United (3)Manchester United’s unbeaten start to the campaign came to an abrupt halt away at Swansea, as the Reds surrendered a 1-0 lead to suffer their third consecutive 2-1 defeat against Gary Monk’s side.

After a brisk start in the first half, United were lucky to be level at half-time but hit the front early in the second half, as Juan Mata netted his first goal of the season to give his side a 1-0 lead. However, Swansea bounced back and scored twice within five minutes to condemn United to their first defeat of the season, as doubts over this squad’s future begin to mount.

Here’s five talking points from yesterday

1) Romero fails his first test

Since his arrival from Sampdoria on a free transfer, the jury has been out for Sergio Romero, who was described as a liability and a disaster waiting to happen. The comments were perhaps a tad harsh considering the Argentine international has played in a World Cup final and has over 60 caps for his country, but it is hard to dispel the impression that Romero failed his first big test against Swansea.

After keeping a clean sheet in each of his first three Premier League games, Romero was beaten twice within five minutes at the Liberty Stadium and, despite what Louis Van Gaal said afterward, he was to blame for Bafetimbi Gomis’ winner.

It would be absolutely unacceptable for United to end this transfer window without David De Gea or without a suitable replacement for the Spaniard.

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2) United struggle to close games out

Considering that defensive solidity had been the most pleasing aspect of United’s season up until Sunday afternoon, the swiftness with which they crumbled against Swansea was alarming. Teams that place emphasis on ball retention tend to close games down, particularly when facing difficult opponents away from home, but United crumbled within five minutes, as they allowed Swansea to slice through them at will.

The failure to see games out makes Van Gaal’s obsession with ball retention redundant and highlights the astounding lack of leadership in the side.

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3) No plan B

Van Gaal’s admission that United lost the game because they could not cope with Swansea’s tactical changes was as disarmingly honest as it was worrying, for being outwitted by a good, but admittedly not great side, does not bode well for a team with realistic aspiration of success.

United’s lack of response, however, was even more depressing than their failure to hang to their slender lead.

With Javier Hernandez spending his final game for the club watching on from the bench, Van Gaal could yet again only turn to Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young, fine players but hardly the kind of goalscoring threat a side chasing an equaliser needs.

If the choice of personnel was uninspiring, the lack of composure in the final third of the pitch was embarrassing.

4) Rooney’s drought continues

It was only four days ago that Wayne Rooney netted a hat-trick against Brugge but looking at his performance on Sunday, one would have been forgiven for thinking his three-goal exploit was four years away.

Rooney marked his 10th Premier League without a goal with a typically frustrating performance that highlighted just how desperately United need another. Rooney had the fewest touches of any United player and when he eventually managed to get himself in a good position, he was so lethargic that Ashley Williams successfully tackled him, despite having to make up two yards at least.

It is not just Rooney’s legs that are not firing on all his cylinders, however, for his footballing brain is not as quick as he once was. It might be premature to judge Rooney on the first four games of the season, but he definitely does not appear to be the 20-goal-a-season striker Van Gaal wanted.

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5) United lack a cutting edge

Four games into his second season at United, Louis Van Gaal has still a lot of work to do, as his side appears to take a step forward and two steps back.

Process has replaced philosophy as the buzzword of the season but United still look like a side struggling to finds its own identity, afraid to attack and take risks for fear of losing the ball, while the lack of pace in the side slows down almost every move.

Speaking after the game, Gary Neville hit the nail on the head.

“They haven’t got enough cutting edge,” he said.

“They haven’t got players who can beat men in the final third, they don’t create enough. They get lulled into thinking they’re playing football really well.

“They dominate possession but they don’t dominate the match. You dominate the match by scoring goals and playing at a high tempo. Win the game and then control possession.”