barclays Barclays Premier League

Swans Soar Against Front-runners

12:41 PMAleks Vee

If there's anything we learned this season, it's that the teams in the middle of the table will provide a good enough challenge for front-runners such as the two Manchester teams and Chelsea. Having previously beaten Manchester City and Arsenal, Michael Laudrup's team have shown no mercy on the pitch. Today's game had the Swans playing on familiar turf, a home field advantage that was most effective against United.

United's success has been taking a backseat.
The first half hour belonged to the guests. Patrice Evra exposed Swansea's set piece weakness by scoring the header from RVP's delivery of the corner kick. Though United appeared dominant, they failed to apprehend Swansea's secret weapon - Michu. Having already gotten to the net from an offside position, the Spaniard was eager to score. He played out a great combination with De Guzman, whose shot forced De Gea to dive in for the save. Without help from the defense, United's keeper was helpless when Michu scored on the rebound. With goals against both Arsenal and Manchester United, the midfielder continues to show his prowess. He is, in essence, Swansea's Robin van Persie. In his 18 appearances for Swansea, the Spaniard has scored 13 goals, mirroring van Persie's record for United. The end of the first half saw a shift in possession in favor of the hosts and a formidable opponent for the Reds.

Aside from the usual defensive mistakes, United looked sharp on the attack and had a slew of opportunities. The guests gave the Swansea defense a run for their money. RVP and Michael Carrick both hit the crossbar. The addition of Ryan Giggs created a great partnership with Rooney and Chicharito on the field and prevailed over some of Swansea's less-than-stellar moments. Nevertheless, the second half was a mirror image of the first. Swansea saw more of the ball at the start, with United catching up towards the end. Williams and Davis fended off shots from RVP and Ashley Young, sending the hosts off on a counter. United failed to build anything productive, and the title of comeback kings began to sound less like a broken record and more like a thing of the past. However sloppy United's passing at times, they had another barrier to keeping up their 6-point gap with City. Credit should be given to Swansea keeper Michel Vorm, who was solid all throughout the game. De Gea was there when his team needed him, but without support from the defense, his job was far more difficult. Both teams had their share of moments, however, and the match did not fail to administer the typical Premier League excitement. Michael Oliver did a great job refereeing the match, and made great decisions on fouls with the exception of not sending off Ashley Williams for his needless kicking of the ball into the back of RVP's head.
In the RPL, this would probably have been a straight red.
United is now 4 points ahead of Manchester City, while Swansea is just one point away from Norwich, Stoke City, and Liverpool. With the ever-increasing capabilities of the middle teams, staying in the lead will continue to be a challenge. Fergie Time and last-minute goals are long gone; the Red Devils need to pick up a good central defender during the January transfer window. The midfield has been a problem for the team for much too long, as evident by United's inability to keep a clean sheet as of late. There's plenty of competition this season and only one spot for the champions of England. Sir Alex will soon have the opportunity to make some vital changes to the squad which will hopefully reflect well on the club's performance and bring back some of that consistency his team is usually known for.

Barclays Premier League - 18th Match Week
Sunday, December 23, 2012, 8:30AM EST

Swansea City vs. Manchester United - 1:1 (1:1)
Venue: Liberty Stadium (Swansea, Wales)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Cramlington, Northumberland)
0:1 Patrice Evra (Asst. Robin van Persie) (16')
1:1 Michu (29')

Half Time Stats:
5:5 shots on target
4:2 shots off target
3:8 fouls committed
0:1 yellow cards
0:0 red cards
2:3 corners
2:0 offsides
54%:46% possession

Full Time Stats:
9:7 shots on target
5:13 shots off target
11:16 fouls committed
2:4 yellow cards
0:0 red cards
3:6 corners
3:0 offsides
40%:60% possession

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