Louis van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United started badly, as Swansea City recorded a first ever league win at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
When the Dutchman was announced as the Reds new manager during the summer, the optimism which had faded under David Moyes appeared to have returned to the club. However, despite spending almost £60million on Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera in June, there have been no other additions to a squad which finished seventh last season.
The Spaniard was handed his Premier League debut against the Swans, although Shaw will have to wait for at least a month to make his bow as he recovers from a hamstring injury. This absence forced van Gaal to play Ashley Young in the left-wing back role he excelled in during pre-season, with young Jesse Lingard performing in the same role on the other flank whilst an injury to Johnny Evans gave Tyler Blackett, 20, his debut in defence.
Despite enjoying much of the possession early on the home side struggled to create any chances, and having entered the interval trailing to a Ki Sung-yueng goal, van Gaal introduced Nani to his XI after the break and reverted to a 4-4-2 system. Wayne Rooney levelled on 53 minutes, but the visitors secured the points when Gylfi Sigurdsson scored on 72.
It was a bad day all round for the hosts, who lost seven times at Old Trafford last season, with Lingard joining a lengthy injury-list after picking up an ankle problem during the first half. Speaking after the match, van Gaal admitted that the confidence of his players is low, which will only heighten expectation of new signings before the window closes.
“It is very disappointing for the players, the fans, for me, my staff. When you have preparation time and you win everything [in pre-season] and then lose your first match, that cannot be worse,” he said. “It is not good because we have built up a lot of confidence and it shall be smashed down because of this result. But we have to know it is only one game of many games and you shall not be the champion at this moment, you shall be the champion in May.”
It has been reported that Morocco international defender Mehdi Benatia is close to a move to United, who may have to pay as much as £27million to persuade Roma to sell the defender. Sky Sports claim the 27-year-old is set to travel to England to open talks with the 20-times champions, who may also look to sign a second defender in the coming days.