Some of the faces are new, but for Manchester United, the first result will feel frustratingly familiar.
Louis van Gaal's Manchester United reign got off to a poor start, as his side fell 2-1 at home to Swansea City on Saturday in the opening match of the 2014-15 Premier League season.
Ki Sung-Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the goals, as the visitors recorded a first-ever league win at Old Trafford under new full-time manager Garry Monk. Wayne Rooney netted United's only goal to briefly pull his side level, and he came close to another with a free-kick that rattled the woodwork.
For United, it's an alarming start to the season and certainly an unexpected result given the renewed sense of optimism around Old Trafford after Van Gaal's appointment. The Dutchman led his country to a third-place finish at the World Cup this summer and excited fans with a run of positive results in the preseason.
But his first league match, which saw Rooney make his debut as United's captain, more closely resembled last season, when the Red Devils slumped to a disastrous seventh-place finish and manager David Moyes was sacked before the end of the campaign.
United could yet turn around their fortunes, but that will require an improved performance both offensively and defensively.
According to OptaJoe, this was United's first home loss on opening day since 1972-73.
Swansea, meanwhile, were playing for the first time with Monk as their full-time manager. The Welshman helped the Swans avoid relegation last season as interim manager and will be looking to make an even bigger impact on the top flight this term.
Both sides created chances in the early stages.
Sigurdsson tested David de Gea with a dipping shot from distance in the 12th minute, but the Manchester United goalkeeper saved comfortably. For United, Juan Mata had a tame free-kick saved in the 26th minute, and Rooney headed straight at Lukasz Fabianski one minute later.
Swansea then grabbed a shocking lead in the 28th minute with a flowing move down United's left flank. Nathan Dyer headed down for Sigurdsson, who laid off for Ki in the middle. With striker Wilfried Bony shielding away a defender, Ki rolled a fine, first-time finish past De Gea to put the visitors ahead.
Old Trafford was stunned, and the home side went into half-time trailing by a goal. Van Gaal used the break to shuffle his deck, bringing on winger Nani for striker Javier Hernandez and switching from his trademark back three to a flat back four.
United promptly leveled the score through Rooney.
The goal came from a corner, with Phil Jones flicking the ball on at the near post for Rooney, who finished from close range with an eye-catching overhead kick.
With United level, Old Trafford could only expect one winner from there. And the home side nearly obliged in the 66th minute, as Rooney curled a free-kick off the outside of the woodwork where the crossbar meets the post.
Instead, Swansea retook the lead in the 72nd minute with an attack out of the blue.
Bony took a free-kick quickly, with the ball eventually finding substitute Jefferson Montero on the left flank. Montero crossed to the back post for Wayne Routledge, who badly mishit a cross/shot. But the ball trickled to Sigurdsson, who volleyed in for a 2-1 Swansea lead.
It turned out to be the winner, as United largely failed to trouble Fabianski in the closing stages.
Their best chance came in the fourth minute of stoppage time, with Januzaj volleying off Angel Rangel's arm in the box. But a penalty would have been harsh on the Swansea man, and United were left to ponder a poor start to the season.
|Manchester United Player Ratings|
|David de Gea||5.8|
|Adnan Januzaj (for Lingard, 24')||6.2|
|Nani (for Hernandez, 45')||6.4|
|Marouane Fellaini (for Herrera, 67')||6.9|
|Ratings via WhoScored.com|
|Swansea City Player Ratings|
|Dwight Tiendalli (for Taylor, 53')||6.9|
|Jefferson Montero (for Dyer, 67')||6.3|
|Bafetimbi Gomis (for Bony, 77')||6.1|
|Ratings via WhoScored.com|
Van Gaal said United "didn't play as a team" and suggested his side didn't play to its true level. Speaking to MUTV (via ManUtd.com), he said:
We are not reaching our level. That's the main thing. Because of that, we didn't play as a team. Nevertheless, we had chances to win this game. We gave a lot of space away in the second half. We played with more pressing. They scored one goal out of two chances in the second half.
It's more than disappointing for the fans. 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.
We make steps and you have to learn from your steps. We are not the champions. Swansea are not champions because they have beaten us. At the end of the season, we will know who is champion and who has learned from the steps we've made.
Monk hailed his team's victory and claimed that few had given Swansea a chance to win at Old Trafford. As quoted by the South Wales Evening Post, Monk said:
I can pretty much guarantee that everyone in here didn't give us a hope in the hell before the game. But I told the players to show what they are made of. For me, this game was about us coming together as a group and we did that—but I believe we can do better.
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