Manchester United won for the first time in 2014, turning a strong second-half performance into a 2-0 victory at home to Swansea City on Saturday in the Premier League.
Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck scored in the second half for United, who ended a three-match losing run and avenged last weekend's FA Cup defeat at the hands of this same Swansea side. With the victory, seventh-placed United moved onto 37 points—two behind Liverpool, who play on Sunday.
"We got the result we deserved," Manchester United manager David Moyes said, per @PremierLeague. "We're hoping to give the fans more goals here, but maybe we'll keep them for later in the season."
Despite the recent dip in form, United have won five of their last six matches in the Premier League. Swansea are 13th with 21 points—three points clear of the relegation places.
A scheduling quirk meant Saturday's meeting was the second between United and Swansea at the same venue in less than a week. The same teams played last weekend in the third round of the FA Cup, with Swansea winning 2-1 at Old Trafford.
Heading into Saturday's rematch, United had lost three straight games in all competitions. They last lost four straight in 1961.
That served as a forbidding omen for United, as did the absence of both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie in the attack. Per the Daily Telegraph, Rooney was sent to "warm weather training" this week as he attempts to recover from a lingering groin injury. Van Persie could miss another six weeks with a thigh injury, according to the Daily Mirror.
In their stead, Moyes started Welbeck at centre-forward, with Adnan Januzaj, Shinji Kagawa and Valencia supporting him in the attack. All four proved integral to the victory.
Januzaj came close to breaking the deadlock in the 11th minute, but his curled free-kick hit Gerhard Tremmel's bar. In the 17th minute, Swansea were forced into an early substitution when Jose Canas limped off with an injury and was replaced by Chico Flores.
As the first half wore on, Manchester United looked increasingly like the more dangerous side.
Darren Fletcher blazed a shot over the bar in the 35th minute following a fluent team move from United. One minute later, another flowing move involving Valencia and Rafael ended with Welbeck hooking his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Swansea maintained a sporadic threat, though, with Jonjo Shelvey rolling a shot wide of the far post in the 39th minute.
The match was goalless at half-time, but just over a minute after the restart, United went ahead.
The hosts laid siege to Swansea's box as soon as the half started. Kagawa forced a save from Tremmel with a powerful header from Januzaj's cross. Valencia pounced on the rebound and swept in for a 1-0 United lead in the 47th minute.
2011 - Antonio Valencia has scored a home league goal for Manchester United for the first time since Boxing Day 2011. Timely.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 11, 2014
"We did well in the 1st half, (but) giving away a goal after 90 seconds of the 2nd half was exactly what we didn't want," Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said, per @PremierLeague.
Kagawa had a half-chance to double United's advantage in the 53rd minute, but his rifled shot from outside the box flew over the bar. It was only a momentary let-off for Swansea, however, as United made it 2-0 in the 59th minute.
After the visitors failed to properly clear Januzaj's cross, Patrice Evra played the ball into the middle of the box, where Welbeck used the outside of his boot to redirect the ball into the net.
It was Welbeck's sixth goal in six Premier League appearances, and it lifted the mood around Old Trafford.
#mufc and Welbeck needed that goal. An hour of uneasiness for Moyes is over. United home and hosed.— Jonny Gould (@jonnygould) January 11, 2014
The hosts continued to push their advantage, and in the 66th minute, Chris Smalling volleyed over the bar from close range after a fine cross from Kagawa on the left.
United came within inches of scoring a third with a blistering counter in the 76th minute. After a Swansea attack stalled in United's half, Rafael raced free onto Januzaj's pass down the left flank and crossed into the middle for Kagawa. Tremmel was beaten, but Leon Britton cleared for Swansea off the line.
The match featured few chances after that, and United coasted to a victory that takes them within four points of the top four.
Much more like it from #MUFC. What a diff'ce intensity makes. Pleased for Moyes, who was as aghast as anyone by the previous 3 performances— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) January 11, 2014
|David De Gea||6|
|Alexander Buttner (for Evra, 79')||6|
|Javier Hernandez (for Welbeck, 86')||6|
|Chico Flores (for Canas, 17')||6.5|
|Alvaro (for Shelvey, 63')||6|
Manchester United play at Chelsea in the league next Sunday.
Swansea host Tottenham Hotspur on the same day.