FULL TIME: Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United
... United tap the ball back into play, whereupon the referee blows for full time. That's a superb result for David Moyes, who is off to a flyer. Top of the league already, as they were at the end of last season. For what that's worth, of course. More importantly, United's new boss is up and running, Wayne Rooney is back in the fold, and Robin van Persie is clearly in the mood to pick up where he left off last season. What a striker!
90 min +3: Valencia, still full of running with 20 seconds to go forces Williams into conceding a corner down the right. And from it ...
GOAL!!! Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United (Welbeck 90 min +2)
Rooney sets up Welbeck with a lovely slide-rule pass down the inside right channel. Vorm is out quickly to close, but the striker dinks a delicate ball high over the keeper and into the left-hand corner. A brilliant finish, in keeping with his partner van Persie's stunning display.
90 min +1: There will be four added minutes of this. "Not seen the new Sky show you refer to in the preamble," writes Simon McMahon, fast out of the blocks, "but for some reason I couldn't help but think of Funhouse with Pat Sharp as I read your vivid description."
90 min: More of the aforementioned stroking.
89 min: United are stroking it about in the middle of the park, happy to run the clock down. Professional footballers, ladies and gentlemen.
88 min: United concede a needless corner, Ferdinand and Carrick experiencing a joint rush of blood and somehow combining to knock the ball out of play from 25 yards upfield. Bony tries to get onto the set piece, fizzed in from the left, but Vidic can't be doing with this carry-on and clears without fuss.
86 min: The jaw-droppingly good Robin van Persie won't be getting a hat-trick today. He's hooked in favour of Anderson, David Moyes clearly taking no chances and making sure United keep what they have. No point in taking too many risks.
84 min: Swansea are pressing, in the wild hope of a nonsensical finish similar to the one at the Hawthorns on the last day of last season. But they're leaving wide gaps at the back. Evra has the ball down the left, and Rooney's alone in the centre. But Evra can't get the ball away immediately, and Rooney finds himself offside. Beached, he can't be bothered to run back. The game's already won, he's not 100 percent match fit, but even so.
GOAL!!! Swansea City 1-3 Manchester United (Bony 82)
The scoreline has a slightly fairer look to it now. A mad scramble on the edge of the United box, the away side totally incapable of clearing it. Hernandez dinks and shimmies in the D, then slips the ball to the left where Bony, from 12 yards, opens his body and sidefoots powerfully into the bottom right! Questionable defending by United, but that's a delicious strike by Bony, who looks to be made of the right stuff.
80 min: Dyer whizzes a ball into the centre from the right, Carrick lumping it out for a corner. The ball is whipped right across goal. On the left, Chico sprays a long pass back out right to Shelvey, who is in acres. Shelvey dinks a cross to the far post - this is real zig-zag stuff - but Bony doesn't expect the ball to reach him, and sends a shocked snap header wide left. He holds his head in his hands, but in truth this game was lost before he bent a blade of grass.
77 min: Canas, who has enjoyed a decent debut, industrious and sparky, is replaced by Ki. "This won't matter to you but I MUST share my excitement with someone," begins a breathless Linda Howard. "Premier League on my TV! Premier League on my TV! It's so big! It's so clear! I can see each individual hair on Rooney's head! I need to send a love letter to someone at NBC for greenlighting this - and lucky you this means my computer is now free for me to pester you with inane what-not like this. (You should send a nasty letter to whoever at NBC greenlighted this.)" Feel free to keep the emails coming, Linda, we'll look forward to them. But we'll not be taking on any NBC executives. Just look what they did to Conan O'Brien!
75 min: Rooney's name is clearly being chanted with gusto by the away support. The player responds by winning a corner down the right. Van Persie sends a low cross into the box. Pinball. It falls to Evra, eventually, who screws a hopeless snapshot straight at Vorm. Anything else would feel slightly unfair on Swansea, so well have they contributed, but then again you could see United rattling in a couple more, because their tails are up now.
GOAL!!! Swansea City 0-3 Manchester United (Van Persie 73)
And herein lies the difference. For the second time today, Robin van Persie is on the end of something so simple, yet ultimately so spectacular. He runs at the Swansea backline, the defenders retreating to the edge of the box. It's all the invitation he needs. He wellies a snapshot into the top-left corner from 20 yards. Vorm was after it, but had no chance of reaching it. That's world class. What a striker.
71 min: There are six white shirts in the United area, causing all manner of problems. Bony and Michu can't quite fashion a chance on the edge of the box. Eventually, Hernandez on the left loops a cross to the far post, where Rangel volleys spectacularly wide left of goal. Not far away, but the thumping nature of the shot meant it looked slightly better than it was.
68 min: Rooney forces a corner down the right. The ball's whipped into the area, where Evra batters a header goalwards. Canas-Kilcline, well positioned by the left-hand post, heads off the line.
67 min: Hernandez hoicks a hopeless left-wing cross out of play to the right of United's goal, with the away defence sitting way too deep. United still look the more likely to score, simply because Swansea are slipping into panic mode whenever they get near the United box. Otherwise, they're putting some nice moves together.
66 min: Swansea press United back with a couple of uncharacteristic long balls. United don't make a particularly good fist of clearing the ball, and with Michu causing all manner of bother in the pocket, Rangel's eventually given the chance to slice a poor volley well wide. United want to watch themselves there, not least for all the chances they're spurning up the other end.
65 min: Welbeck bowls down the pitch, with Rooney and Van Persie either side of him. He opts for Rooney, who has ludicrously trundled offside. United were three on two there, another missed opportunity to put this to bed.
62 min: Rooney is on for Giggs. A few boos, but they could be from Swansea fans, I have no idea of knowing. The shot of the United support looks exactly that: a shot of some people offering support. Rooney doesn't appear to be getting any pelters, a few appear to be mouthing his name in chant form, and there are none of those scrunched-up coupons some fans slap on when they get particularly mad at a millionaire going to work for a different company. Forgiveness? Maybe not, but there seems little opprobrium on show. Though like I say, it's hard to tell, and I don't have a paper to fill.
60 min: Van Persie should have put this game beyond all doubt. He chases after a Welbeck flick-on down the inside-right channel, and breaks free past the all-at-sea Williams and into the area. He flicks a boot casually at the ball, sending it flying across Vorm and just wide of the left-hand post. What a miss. He looks astonished. Swansea go up the other end and nearly punishes United for their striker's largesse, Davies whipping one in from the left for Bony to head just wide right.
57 min: Swansea sweep forward through Michu, Bony, Shelvey and then Rangel, a lovely flowing left-to-right move, but Rangel's attempt to switch the play back to Dyer on the left is misguided. Swansea win a throw, and Davies puts a testing ball across the United box, but it's easily dealt with by the away side, who seem happy to sit back and see how this one develops.
55 min: De Gea is indeed OK, writes Dr Murray. Shelvey's corner is not.
53 min: Rangel sprays a ball into the United area from wide on the right. Bony cushions a glorious header down into the road of Michu, who goes to poke home from a tight angle near the right-hand post, but is denied by a brave block from De Gea. That'll be a corner. The keeper's down, receiving treatment. I think he'll be OK, although why I think that I have no idea, I'm not a doctor and I'm only seeing all this on the telly.
52 min: Carrick is forced to head a high ball whipped into the United area behind for a corner on the right. Shelvey whips it in, but the ball's cleared. The curly-haired wildman Canas, the Brian Kilcline de nos jours, blooters an awful effort into the stand behind from the best part of 30 yards. That's needlessly relieved pressure on United.
50 min: Swansea enjoy a spot of time in the United half. First Bony threatens to bust through the centre of the defence, the ball clanking off his chest, the striker never quite in control. Then Michu has a lash from 25 yards, and really tests De Gea, who fails to handle in any sort of impressive fashion, allowing the ball to squirm from his grasp. He's up and smothering it before the Spaniard can reach to follow up, though.
48 min: More of the United possession. Michu, in frustration, clatters into the back of Carrick, who rolls around the floor with a gob on. But even his team-mates can't be bothered with his carry on, and decide to continue knocking it around. A very strange atmosphere to this half so far.
And we're off again! A couple of changes by Swansea. Much as expected, Bony's thrown on, and Hernandez joins in too. Routledge and Britton are the chaps to give way. United get the ball rolling, and as if in response to Swansea's early showing off in the first half, don't concede possession in any meaningful way for one minute and 23 seconds.
So here's what was being shilled on the television when Fergie was sliding his boots under the table for the first time. An epochal advertising break, too, this one. Gareth Hunt is clearly aware that the Nescafé gig isn't going to last much longer, with the Gold Blend yuppies poised to shove him off the stage and whip the bread from his table. The British Rail ad was surely the last time a public body extolled the benefits of sleeping with your colleagues' wives, and actively encouraged you to do so. And the one for Haynes car manuals starring a pre-Withnail Richard E Grant must have been the clip to persuade director Bruce Robinson that the actor had the chops to convincingly portray a bloke ripped to the tits on speed.
Half time: Swansea City 0-2 Manchester United
And that's that for the opening period. David Moyes will be highly content with that. Expect to see his opposite number Michael Laudrup throwing on Wilfried Bony early in the second half. Meanwhile Gene Salorio would like to make two observations. "1. Swansea are a lot better with the ball than without it. 2. if you combined the best qualities of Shelvey and Cleverley I still wouldn't want the result on my team."
45 min: Cleverley is the latest player to go into the book, understandably so as he flips Angel into the sky as the full back looks to make good for the box. The free kick's whipped into the box, in the direction of Williams, but Jones gets in the road.
44 min: You'd imagine Swansea need something before half time if they're to get back into this game. They look for that booster, Routledge skipping around on the edge of the United D awhile, then Chico loses patience and rasps an idiotic shot into the stands from nigh on 40 yards! Come along now.
42 min: United stroke it around at the back in the manner of - forgive the comparison - Liverpool in the Paisley era. It's a tactic designed knacker out the Swansea side who are forced to chase, chase, chase, and to irritate and silence the crowd. Job done.
40 min: Carrick is booked for slipping over on the wet turf and accidentally clattering into Routledge.
38 min: Whether Swansea deserve to be two goals down is a moot point, but United, purely on chances created, certainly deserve some sort of lead. Swansea have enjoyed more possession, though, so the scoreline will be hard for the home side to take. A corner's forced down the right, but United - Vidic especially suddenly looking imperious - clear easily. This has been a masterclass in soaking up pressure then striking back.
GOAL!!! Swansea City 0-2 Manchester United (Welbeck 36)
This is what champions do. After a slow-ish start, United hammer Swansea with a double whammy! Van Persie heads a left-wing cross down for Valencia at the right-hand post. Valencia slides a ball across the face of the goal, where Welbeck is waiting to tap in. Swansea are shellshocked, and United's travelling support are making their feelings felt via the medium of song.
GOAL!!! Swansea City 0-1 Manchester United (Van Persie 34)
So simple in terms of the move - a hoick up the middle - but what a finish this is by Van Persie! On the penalty spot, he chests the ball down, taking it to the right, and as it drops he whips a majestic volley into the top right!
33 min: Vidic waits for De Gea to come out for a Shelvey loop up the middle. And waits. And waits. Eventually the keeper claims, but it's a close-run thing with Michu sniffing around. "Is it just me or does Michael Laudrup remind anyone else of Roy 'Catchphrase' Walker circa 1980?" asks Nathan North, saying what he sees. Routledge is a similar height to Mr Chips, too, come to think about it.
30 min: A couple of minutes of Swansea probing down both wings, back and forth. It's relentless. Britton has a rake from 25 yards. Blocked, but Michu picks up possession again. Eventually Evra gets frustrated and bowls Britton over just to the right of the United area. Shelvey whips the set piece across the face of goal, a brilliantly inviting kick, but Williams can't connect with his attempted header from six yards, and a beauty of a chance is gone. Williams has the good grace to look pained and a bit embarrassed.
28 min: Welbeck goes on a blistering run down the left, leaving Rangel for dust and nearly outstripping Britton too, but Chico is over quickly to clip the ball away from his boot and send it back to his keeper Vorm, who clears.
26 min: A minor lull compared to what's gone before. But the atmosphere continues to cause the Liberty to bounce.
23 min: Shelvey doesn't have much pace, but he can certainly pick a pass. He looks to have held up a Swansea attack, then flicks one with the outside of his boot down the inside right for Routledge, who then finds Michu. The Spanish signing of 2012/13 spins quickly through 180 degrees and nearly catches De Gea out with a snapshot at the near post, but the keeper parries well. Michu meets the corner with his head, but can't get the thing on target. This is highly entertaining, with both sides taking turns to play some fine stuff up front and look distressingly awful at the back.
21 min: Van Persie looks to send a low heatseeker into the bottom left after cutting in from the right. Just wide. This is ludicrously open, and the scoreline could easily be 1-0, 0-1, 1-1, or 2-5. Other examples are available.
19 min: Welbeck, with plenty of time 12 yards out, opts to feed Giggs to his left instead of shooting for goal as a hotshot striker should. Giggs rakes a dreadful effort straight across the face of goal and out of play. He should have scored. Swansea flood straight upfield, Routledge springing United's back line down the left, then looking for Dyer in the middle with a low cross. De Gea fumbles, and after a minor stramash, Michu sweeps the ball into the bottom left. It's not a goal, though, as Dyer has been rightly flagged for offside, and was interfering with play like billy-o.
17 min: Shelvey is full of energy, and after a good couple of minutes for United drags the play down the other end with a determined run down the inside right. He's eventually turned round. Swansea dig in, refusing to give up territory, rugby style. They eventually win a
scrum free kick, which Shelvey takes too excitedly, conceding possession to United. Promising play from Swansea's new midfielder, though.
15 min: United should be a goal up. First Van Persie heads a left-wing Evra cross straight at Vorm. Then Giggs is set clear down the middle by a Van Persie flick, but instead of going for goal himself once he reaches the edge of the area, he opts to look for Welbeck to his left instead, and the pass clanks off Rangel, who had tracked back desperately well.
14 min: Swansea triangulate down the right, pretty tessellations. Eventually Dyer looks to whip a cross in, but there's little direction on it and De Gea gathers.
11 min: Chico and Welbeck both go into a 50-50 tackle down the United left at full pelt. Welbeck takes a while to get up, but that was fair and full-blooded. Swansea are enjoying more of the ball, but United look settled at the back now and seem pleased to soak things up (literally, as co-commentator Tony Slattery might guffaw) with a view to whipping upfield on the break.
9 min: Valencia is booked after whacking the constantly involved Canas, clattering into him clumsily, and with timing an issue to boot. In these drenched conditions, this could turn daft with those early bookings having set a trend.
8 min: Free kick to United down the left. Giggs whips it across the front of the area. The ball finds Jones at the right-hand corner of the box. He welts a magnificent half-volley towards the top-left corner. It looks like finding its target, but Vorm fingertips over spectacularly. Nothing much occurs from the corner.
7 min: Has that kick on the noggin scrambled Jones's brain? He sends a hospital pass back to De Gea, who manages to batter the ball against the onrushing Michu. United haven't got going yet.
5 min: Good work by Shelvey down the right, VIdic forced to heading his cross over the bar. The corner doesn't come to much, but Michu does manage to connect his boot with Jones's head, the latter stooping low, no blame attached to the Swansea man. This is a pretty competitive start, with the home support already aggrieved and affronted. Heating up nicely, despite the lashing rain.
4 min: Now Canas is upended by Welbeck, but the referee waves play on. The home side aren't too happy about that, but it wasn't half as bad, the United striker getting a bit of the ball.
2 min: Canas is booked, early on, after sliding in on Cleverley at speed across the wet turf. He caught the United midfielder on the ankle with his studs, so can hardly complain, even if the slippery surface made that look a bit worse than it probably was (in terms of intent, anyway).
1 min 07 seconds: Manchester United touch the ball for the first time. Admittedly Swansea have done nothing with it, other than stroking it around awhile at the back, but there's a statement of intent by the home side, who aren't changing their style any time soon.
Swansea get in a pre-match huddle, while United hang around in a more insouciant style - and we're off! Michu and Shelvey get the ball rolling. Expect Shelvey to get a few pelters from the away support after last season's antics at Anfield, where the former Liverpool player was sent off and entered into a full and frank discussion with Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline.
Anyway, the teams have taken to the pitch at a rainy Liberty Stadium. But there's no drizzle in the hearts of both sets of supporters, who are belting out their favourite songs, some in the local close-harmony style, as the teams do the nice thing and shake hands. A blistering atmosphere, and let's hope a lively start to this season's Premier League continues apace here!
The Sky Television Company, incidentally, have responded to the threat of the new kid on the block, the GPO, by turning the Saturday evening show into Top Gear. Thing is, say what you like about Clarkson, May and Hammond, they obviously put a bit of work into their show, scripting it, planning stuff, thinking up ideas, and other controversial old-fashioned creative concepts. Sky have just thrown Jamie Redknapp and Presenter Bloke out in front of a live studio audience, and are expecting them to come up with zingers off the top of their head. It isn't working. It used to be painful enough watching professional comedians winging it for yuks on Whose Line Is It Anyway, and these two ain't no John Sessions or Josie Lawrence. On the line from Swansea, Gary Neville (Tony Slattery) tries a quip about the necessity for United to strangle Swansea's midfield: "But not literally!" If Mark Lawrenson's excessive quipping on the BBC used to tire you out, this new format promises to really test the patience.
Persons or characters of the drama
Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Ben Davies, Canas, Britton, Dyer, Shelvey, Routledge, Michu.
Subs: Amat, Taylor, Bony, Hernandez, Ki, Pozuelo, Tremmel.
Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Cleverley, Carrick, Valencia, Giggs, Welbeck, van Persie.
Subs: Anderson, ☞☞☞☞☞ Rooney ☜☜☜☜☜, Smalling, Lindegaard, Fabio Da Silva, Kagawa, Zaha.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
A grand total of 9,779 days have passed since a Manchester United manager last made his debut in the league. On that occasion, plain old Mr Alex Ferguson squeezed into the ridiculously small dugout at the Manor Ground, Oxford, to watch in horror as his new side were swatted aside with ease, 2-0, the goals scored by John Aldridge and Neil Slatter.
The teams that day:
Oxford United: Langan, Slatter, Phillips, Briggs, Shotton, Houghton, Aldridge, Leworthy, Trewick, Brock.
Manchester United: Turner, Duxbury, Albiston, Moran, McGrath (Olsen 75), Hogg, Blackmore, Moses, Stapleton, Davenport, Barnes.
United ended the day in 20th place - in a league of 22 teams, kids - but optimism nevertheless abounded. "What he wants to get done at Old Trafford, he'll get done," said acting captain Kevin Moran that day. "I think he'll get a tremendous response from the players."
And so it would prove. But history also tells us that it took Ferguson the best part of four years to gain any sort of meaningful momentum. Do you think today's debutant, David Moyes, will be afforded a similar amount of time if his hunt for a first trophy - and no, we're not counting the Charity Shield, the Houllier-Mancini Law Of Trophy Tallying carries no weight around these parts - proves similarly tough? You already know the answer to that, and it's a damn shame, a searing indictment of football's modern mores.
Moyes will be after a good start, obviously, but mainly to ensure the extraneous noise is kept to a minimum as he settles in. An opening-day win for the champions would be perfect, of course, but he'd take a point today. Swansea are one of the most respected outfits in the division, they gave United as good as they got at Old Trafford in Fergie's Last Home Game, and they've only been beaten once in Swansea by United ever.
Swansea are also unwrapping their box-fresh striker, Wilfried Bony, sending him out for his Premier League debut in the hope of a spectacular start. He's looked the business in pre-season, and now it just remains to be seen if he can make the leap from Holland to England in the style of a Van Nistelrooy or Suarez, rather than a Kezman or Alves.
And I probably should whisk up some sort of dramatic confection around Wayne Rooney, but the heart's not in it. Let's wait for the team sheets, and even then don't expect too much drama here.
Kick off: 5.30pm.