After all of the hype surrounding the appointment of Louis van Gaal and a promising pre-season, Manchester United were brought crashing back to earth in the Dutchman?s first Premiership game.
United looked a pale shadow of the side that had looked so good in recent weeks as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Swansea at Old Trafford. In scenes reminiscent of last season under David Moyes, disgruntled fans were seen making their way to the exits long before the final whistle.
Ki Sung-yueng set the tone for the match by providing the Welsh side with a shock first-half lead before Wayne Rooney levelled the game with an overhead kick from close range. Rooney may have endured a disappointing World Cup but his future at Old Trafford had been rubber-stamped by the award of the captaincy.
Just as United fans were expecting their side to push for victory, Swansea struck again through a messy goal by Gylfi Sigurdsson. There was no way back for the home side this time and the defeat underlines the enormity facing the task of Van Gaal as he seeks to take United back into the title race.
Van Gaal has won league titles with every previous team that he has managed but such ambitions look a long way off after this defeat. He admits that his side is currently lacking in defence having parted with Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand in the summer. However, he is not about to be rushed into panic buying.
David Moyes started his reign as United boss with a 4-1 victory against Swansea last season. His season ended with his side in seventh place in the table and out of Europe. It was their worst season in the league since 1989-90 and there is little evidence of a rebuilding process at this stage.
The summer signings of Herrera, Milinkovic and Shaw have failed to excite the Old Trafford faithful while Juan Mata is yet to find the level of form that he displayed at Chelsea. The 63-year-old coach enhanced his reputation further by taking Holland to a great run in the World Cup. He is widely regarded as a master tactician but he is only as good as the players that he has to work with.
United have been critical in the past of the short-term attitude towards coaches by rival Premiership clubs but they cut short Moyes?s contract last season. It is difficult to set pre-season targets but United are so used to being in the title race that a top five finish must surely be the minimum requirement. United next travel to Sunderland on 24th August and Van Gaal will be looking for considerable improvement from his team.