So here's a stat; not a jaw-dropper, or a shocker, but an eyebrow-raiser at least: Manchester United have never won in Swansea.
It doesn't sound like much, the Swans having spent only two seasons before this one in the English top flight. But these teams have met more often than you'd think, thanks to United's six-season spell in the Second Division during the 1930s. United were a bit of a rabble in those days, even finishing below Swansea in 1933/34, their worst-ever season, a point and a place from dropping into the Third. So Swansea's record at home against United over the years is very decent indeed: played eight, won six, drawn two.
One of Swansea's six home wins came during the Toshack Era, a top-of-the-table clash against Ron Atkinson's United in January 1982. Swansea finshed the 81/82 season sixth, three places behind United. Unthinkable now. Thanks, soccer! Here's the report of that win, from your super soaraway Guardian:
Manchester United were mugged twice on Saturday. Just when they weren't looking, Swansea crept up on them and stabbed them twice in the back. The rich victims could never recover and Swansea gleefully ran off with the booty of three points. Reputations still count for little at The Vetch Field.
The first mugging—the most damaging for United - remains a mystery. The incident was recorded from two angles by BBC's Match of the Day cameras, but the TV team for once could provide no solution. Perhaps, like the press, they could not reach a verdict. Both Curtis and Latchfori looked yards offside as they ran on to Thompson's speculative fly-kick from deep defence. McQueen and Moran chased in vain and saw Curtis execute clinically from 15 yards.
The question is: were Curtis and latchford onside when Thompson launched his clearance? The referee and linesman clearly thought so and United's defenders appeared to concur by raising no protest. But perhaps they. like the rest of us, were reduced to silence by the seeming enormity of the error.
Error or not, there was ho optical illusion about Swansea's second goal just two minutes later. This one was pure slapstick, with United's McQueen and Bailey cast as the fall guys. Leighton James danced around two of their colleagues and delivered a low, outswinging cross that Bailey could only palm towards the advancing Latchford. The ball was stopped adroitly on the line by McQueen, but before the big centre half could turn full circle in sprinted Robbie James to convert the simplest of .chances.
That was the end for the luckless McQueen, who had earlier Jarred a knee and gave way to Gldman. It was also the end for United. Toshack drew great comfort from individual performances. He was pleased with his latest recruit, Ray Kennedy, in mldfeld and even more so with the response from Curtis and Leighton James.
It's a result unlikely to be repeated today, with United odds on to break their Swansea duck. (The overall record between the teams, incidentally, is six wins apiece and four draws.) But you never know: Swansea have only let in one goal at home this season, in 450 minutes of football, and haven't lost at the Liberty Stadium since March.
Kick off: 5.30pm.
Swansea City recall Scott Sinclair, with Joe Allen on the bench but struggling with a calf problem: Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Monk, Taylor, Sinclair, Routledge, Gower, Britton, Dyer, Graham.
Subs: Tremmel, Dobbie, Lita, Moore, Allen, Richards, Moras.
Manchester United have David De Gea back in their goal, and Michael Carrick restored to their midfield: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Park, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Hernandez.
Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Berbatov, Young, Fabio Da Silva, Fletcher, Valencia.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
A lovely moment before the game. Sir Bobby Charlton takes to the pitch alongside local hero Kenny Morgans, formerly of Swansea and also Manchester United. Morgans, like Charlton, is a survivor of the Munich air disaster. The two pat each other on the back warmly as they wave to the crowd. Then the man on the PA does a bit of shouting - isn't modernity great - and the two teams trot out onto the field. Swansea City are in their white kit with black trim, Manchester United their red shirts and black shorts. A traditional look all round, so with football supporters being at heart conservative beasts, everyone will be happy.
Coins are tossed, hands are shaken, and then Swansea set the ball rolling. This is the first time Ryan Giggs has played a league match in the country of his birth, incidentally. How about that. And with seconds gone, here's our first moan of the match. "Looking at the lineup, it seems that SAF has mistaken this for a European night," blasts Jijin John. "At least it is not Valencia instead of Nani. Not that I have any thing against Valencia though. But I feel Valencia's contribution has reduced quite a bit since Wayne Rooney stopped trying to score goals and started auditioning for top spot in the latest season of England's Next Top Hoddle. It is fun to see Valencia brush of fully grown men as if they were kittens, but the man can't shoot to save his life. It's Swansea for Christ's sake. Bring Berbatov on!" Who deserves to be subbed after their terrible first four seconds, then? Decisions, decisions.
2 min: A confident start from Swansea. A looped pass from Britton on the right finds Sinclair at the far post. The ball's at his feet, six yards out, but he hadn't expected it to go over Vidic's head, and can't get a shot away.
3 min: Gower rakes a long left-to-right diagonal ball towards Rangel, who reaches the byline and pulls the ball back. On the edge of the area, Gower gets the ball back and has a weak dig, the ball sailing well left of the target at slow pace. A bright start by the home side.
6 min: United calm it down a bit, passing it around the middle. Swansea sit back, expecting trouble. It doesn't come. A lull.
7 min: Sinclair embarks on a brilliant run down the left, cutting inside past three red shirts. Trouble for Swansea is, most of it was in his own half. By the time he reaches the centre circle, there are still options, with Dyer and Graham next to him, but an attempt at a one-two with Graham fails to come off. United were light at the back as a result of Sinclair's pacy burst, and the crowd accordingly sigh with frustration.
9 min: Now it's Swansea's turn to knock it around awhile. They do stroke it around nicely, you know, a very pretty side indeed. They've clearly decided to play this game on their own terms. Which may or may not be courting bother.
11 min: GOAL!!! Swansea City 0-1 Manchester United. Bother it is, then. Rangel tries to pass his way out of trouble down the right. He passes the ball straight to Giggs, who takes a couple of strides into the area, then slips it into the centre for Hernandez to sidefoot home. There's a hint of offside, but if Hernandez is, it's a cigarette paper at most, and the right decision to give him the benefit of the doubt.
13 min: Sinclair tries to score from 35 yards. Come on, some respect for David de Gea, please. "ESPN commentator Jon Champion's condescending of Swansea is nauseating," writes Gary Naylor, "and I'm not even a fan of the plucky little team from the Principality, who have done ever so well and must be feeling so proud to be hosting Manchester United."
16 min: Falling behind hasn't dissuaded Swansea from stroking it around. They're seeing the majority of the ball, and looking to probe down both wings. First Rangel gets to the byline again down the right, but his cross is poor and cut out by Evra. Then Sinclair takes on Jones down the opposite wing, and forces a corner. Nothing much happens at the corner: de Gea flaps, the ball falls to Rooney, who threatens to break dangerously, but eventually grinds to a halt.
19 min: Dyer nicks the ball off Giggs, then embarks on a Homeric jaunt down the right. He draws Evra in, then zips past him. He reaches the area, only to freeze with two white shirts in the area. The cross never comes, and Evra comes back to mop up. This is a very open, high-tempo game. Swansea are contributing to the free-flowing vibe, without creating anything in the United danger areas. United, for their part, seem quite happy to sit back and look to break, perhaps with a view to letting Swansea run themselves ragged.
22 min: United are slowly beginning to dominate. Mind you, Vorm's had nothing to do other than picking the ball from his net.
23 min: Oh dear, what a miss by Scott Sinclair. Vidic faffs around on the edge of his own area. Graham picks up a loose ball, and slides it to the right to Routledge, who hits a low centre past de Gea for Sinclair. He's in front of an open goal, but lets the ball sail between his legs while taking an ugly fresh-air toe-poke. A terrible panic. He got himself into all sorts of problems there, his legs simply refusing to work. A suggestion that he might have been offside anyway, though again we're talking fag papers.
26 min: United pass it around the middle of the park a lot. "Unlike Gary Naylor, I'd imagine Swansea fans will be enjoying Jon Champion's commentary," opines Brad McMillan. "It's not my cup of tea, but how often are Swansea City joint-top billing? Why not keep reminding everyone? It's a better story than Manchester City's £195m loss."
28 min: Park attempts to spring Nani clear down the right, but Taylor is over quickly to tackle. A strange game, in the sense that United are almost totally in charge now, yet they've not forcing Vorm into any meaningful action.
29 min: As a rule, I have no truck with 100% of stats, but this is a nice one: ESPN have just flashed up a graphic claiming United have a 90% pass completion rate, while Swansea's is 89%. It is a very pretty match. It's the footballing version of Fred Couples' swing.
32 min: More Manchester United passing, though further upfield this time. Rooney sprays a delightful crossfield pass towards Nani down the right, but it's this much overhit, and evades his team-mate, who would have been in plenty of space down the wing otherwise.
35 min: Taylor needlessly gives the ball away down the left, allowing United to stream forward. Rooney advances on the area, and is checked just before he reaches the D by Williams. A free kick in a very dangerous position. "Fred Couples' swing might for you be a thing of beauty but the way Tiger swings is of more interest to the media," writes Ian Copestake, not unfairly. "Talking of which, how is Giggs playing?"
36 min: Here's Giggs, taking the free kick, and hoofing it wide right and high. Not good.
38 min: Ferdinand has a minor rush of blood on the halfway line, attempting to reach a loose ball, failing dismally, and allowing Dyer to poke it past him and hare off down the right. Dyer wallops a cross to the far post, where Jones puts the ball out for a corner. Nothing comes from the set piece, but for a second it looked like Jones had worked his way into all sorts of trouble and might put through his own net.
41 min: Swansea have had a good few minutes, but aren't really doing anything with their possession. Like earlier in the game, United seem perfectly happy to let their opponents stroke it around in the middle of the park, and look for chances to break. "Much made of Ryan Giggs playing his first match in his homeland. Fortunately he's always been very comfortable playing away from home." Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Mr Gary Naylor with his gentle pint-and-a-pie style club-comic delivery. Please do drive home safely, and if you can't be good, be careful.
44 min: This half of football is dribbling out. So here's Confuscius, in the guise of our unhappy United supporting friend from earlier, Jijin John: "Confuscius says possession without penetration doesn't make you Barcelona. Confuscius says team without central midfield hoof ball to wings and then to Hernandez's body. Confuscius says paint drying on bench more interesting than Man Utd play. I think I am losing my sanity."
45 min +1: Wow, what a chance for United to make it two just before the interval. Rooney sprays a long ball down the inside-right channel, setting Hernandez clear. He reaches the area, draws Vorm, then looks for Rooney, who kept up with play after making the pass, in the centre. However, Hernandez opts to hoof his low cross as hard as he can, and Rooney's got no chance of reaching the tap-in.
HALF TIME: Swansea City 0-1 Manchester United. A decent half of football, that. United deserve the lead on possession alone, but Swansea should nevertheless be level, Sinclair having missed an absolute sitter. There won't be a worse miss all season (that isn't by Fernando Torres).
(EXTREME) HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT:
More sparring between folk from Swansea and Manchester.
And we're off again! A tactical change for Swansea: Joe Allen, he of the dodgy calf, is on for Wayne Routledge. Manchester United are 45 minutes away from their first-ever win in Swansea.
47 min: Evra is booked for coming straight through the back of Dyer's legs. The full back strides off with a face on, frown cranked up to 11, but he can't be cross with the referee; it was a fair enough decision.
48 min: Rooney busts the Swansea back line apart with a lovely pass to Hernandez down the middle, but the striker has gone way too early. He puts the ball in the net, between Vorm's legs, but he was miles offside.
49 min: Another chance spurned by Swansea. Sinclair forces de Gea to parry round the left-hand post with a decent shot from a tight angle. The resulting corner drops onto the head of Monk on the penalty spot. He's unchallenged, but misdirects his header at a comedy 90-degree angle.
50 min: From the right wing, Rooney loops a delicious pass infield, releasing Hernandez in the area, down the inside-right channel. If he takes the easy pass, he's one on one with the keeper, but takes an incredibly heavy touch, sending the ball flying instantly out of play on the right. Very uncharacteristic.
51 min: Evra is replaced by Fabio. Not sure what's wrong with the full back. Maybe he strained his eyebrows with that frown a couple of minutes ago.
54 min: United tapping it around a lot. Getting nowhere. Seemingly not bothered whatsoever about it. And why not? Look at the score. "As much as I appreciate every one-nil win, I can't help feeling envious of teams like Barcelona and (now) Manchester City," writes verygreenboi. "It feels like our entertainment factor left with CR7. Damn shame."
55 min: A high ball into the United area from the right. Graham is under it, with his back to goal, but he waits for it to bounce twice, with a view to a very laboured scissor kick. Vidic clears.
56 min: A couple of corners to Swansea. Vidic is forced into a spectacular diving header to clear his six-yard box after the first. The second is easily dealt with.
58 min: Rooney goes up with Vorm under a looping Giggs cross. Vorm wins. Rooney wriggles around on the floor for a while, but he'll be OK, he's just winded.
63 min: Musak in football form at the moment.
66 min: Swansea are pinging it around nicely, and going absolutely nowhere. Allen nearly releases Rangel down the right, but the referee nixes the move for a block on Fabio. "When Bill Drummond was manager of Echo and the Bunnymen," writes Ian Burch, "he sent them off around the country on a tour of the most out of the way places. When they came back he joined up all the places on the map to reveal a picture of a rabbit. With all the clubs he's had I wonder what Routledge's career map will look like by the time he's finished?" A perfect circle, on account of it being pointless?
68 min: Dyer, of all people, wins a header eight yards from the United goal. No power on the header, but it finds Rangel, who shoots from a tight angle. The ball's bundled out of play for a corner. Nothing comes of it, but this is a wee bit better from the home side, who are slowly running out of time.
71 min: Rooney has a dig from a silly range. Vorm makes a meal of gathering, but does so.
73 min: Sinclair burns Rooney down the left, a brilliant run. He reaches the byline and cuts the ball back for Williams, whose low shot from ten yards is smothered by Vidic's lunge. Brilliant defending by United, who calmly get the ball clear, but what a turn of pace by Sinclair down the left. Sheer exhilarating brilliance, and so unlucky that he doesn't have an assist to his name.
76 min: Giggs is replaced by Fletcher.
78 min: Swansea are tiring. United are sitting back. Good entertainment this does not make. "I don't know about Routledge," begins Mac Millings, looking pleased with himself, adjusting his tie, and clearing his throat for the delivery of a zinger, "but if you draw a line between the various episodes of John Terry's career, it looks like a c[ssssnnnniiiiiiiiiiiipppp!!!! - Guardian Saturday Night Family Entertainment Editor]
79 min: Dobbie is on for Gower.
82 min: Nowt going on here. "Quite conflicted on what result I should be pulling for here," fusses Benjamin McKinney. "My heart says Swansea, based on a predisposition I have to root for the plucky underdog plus a decent bit of Welsh blood, but then my head says I should root for Man U just because I hate to watch the New York Yankees approach come out victorious in the guise of their crosstown rivals. Then again, maybe a late equalizer is exactly what they need to galvanize them into playing something resembling a confident game again? Eh."
83 min: United are knocking it around for fun. In the stands, their fans give their Christmas Cantona song its first seasonal run-out.
84 min: Valencia is on for the goalscorer Hernandez.
86 min: Jones amuses himself with a couple of sorties down the right. He is a lot of fun to watch going forwards. Nothing happens here, though he's not too far away from powering past Taylor and into the area.
87 min: From the right, Park hits a low cross-cum-shot. Rooney can't get on the end of it to turn it in. The ball runs out of play on the left. United are running the clock down expertly here.
88 min: Nani tries to score directly from a corner on the right, sending a swerver towards a gap at Vorm's near post. The keeper is forced to palm round the post. Vorm claims the second corner.
89 min: Rooney has a shot from the edge of the area. Vorm parries. The ball rebounds to the right of goal. Rooney races after the loose ball himself, and attempts to chip the keeper from a tight-ish angle, eight yards out. The ball nestles on the top of the netting. Swansea can't get out of their own area, never mind their own half.
90 min: Jones holds his head in despair as he bombs down the right, exchanges passes with Nani, and hits a low shot across Vorm and onto the base of the left-hand post. The ball flies away from danger. Jones has yet to score a goal in his career, hence the very real turmoil.
90 min +1: There will be three added minutes, of which this is the uneventful first.
90 min +2: Manchester United are 60 seconds away from their first ever win in Swansea.
FULL TIME: Swansea City 0-1 Manchester United. Nani tries to curl one into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area, the ball bouncing just wide of the post. And that's the final action, and the final whistle. United were deserving winners, though Swansea will look to that Scott Sinclair miss, and rue the loss of their all-time unbeaten home record against English football's most storied team.