Soccer — English Premier LeagueSunday, August 17, 2014
Miserable start for Van Gaal at United
Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal found no instant fix as a new era dawned in dispiriting fashion. Swansea City’s 2-1 victory on the opening day of the Premier League reopened old wounds.
LONDON — New season, new coach — same misery at Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal failed to usher in the bright new era expected at United yesterday, watching in frustration as the team opened the season with a home loss for the first time in 42 years.
The 20-time champions slumped to a 2-1 loss against Swansea, a team even David Moyes managed to beat comfortably a year earlier at the start of his short-lived reign.
But the hosts lacked organization in defence at Old Trafford, allowing Gylfi Sigurdsson to score the winner from close range in the 72nd minute after United captain Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick canceled out Ki Sung-yeung’s opener.
In Van Gaal, United hired a proven coach who has won titles at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But the Dutch coach was given a clear indication of just how difficult it will be to turn a team that finished seventh in May into top-four finishers again.
“It’s a very bad day for us... we didn’t play as a team,” Van Gaal said. “I saw a lot of players looking very nervous, making the wrong choices and that is a pity.”
But it was a victorious opening day in a new job for Mauricio Pochettino, whose Tottenham side won 1-0 at West Ham after debutant Eric Dier scored in stoppage time.
Tottenham’s north London rival, Arsenal, also profited from a stoppage time goal as Aaron Ramsey scrambled the ball over the line to clinch a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace. Arsenal’s first opening-day win since 2009 came after Laurent Koscielny headed in an equalizer to cancel out Brede Hangeland’s opener for Palace, which is without a coach following Tony Pulis’ surprising departure on Thursday.
The first goal of the season came 28 minutes into the game at Old Trafford after United failed to fix its defensive deficiencies in the offseason. Sigurdsson picked up the ball from Nathan Dyer and squared for Ki to score.
Van Gaal said his team had felt tense in the first half, feeling the pressure to deliver. But Rooney dragged the hosts back into the game, hooking the ball over his head from Phil Jones’ flick-on in the 53rd.
United couldn’t produce a second, with Rooney sending a free kick against the goal frame, and Sigurdsson was able to bundle the ball over the line after Jefferson Montero’s cross wasn’t cleared.
“We have built up a lot of confidence and then it shall be smashed down because of this result,” Van Gaal said. “We are not reaching our level.”
SCOTTISH LEAGUE. Scottish champion Celtic routed a hapless Dundee United 6-1 yesterday in Ronny Deila’s first match in charge at Celtic Park.
Jason Denayer, the 19-year-old Belgian defender who arrived on a year-long loan from Manchester City last week, took only four minutes to make his mark by lashing the ball in from close range before goals by Kris Commons and Stefan Johansen had the win tied up by the interval.
Stand-in skipper Charlie Mulgrew claimed a fourth goal and Jo Inge Berget grabbed the fifth — his first since arriving on loan from Cardiff. Dundee United captain John Rankin pulled a goal back but Berget was able to make it six in the last seconds.
Herald staff with agencies