Despite dominating possession, United – who fielded three debutants – failed to create many meaningful chances and lost one of those new boys, Jesse Lingard, to an injury midway through the first half.
Swansea played on the counter and took the lead as United’s overstretched back three failed to deal with Gylfi Sigurdsson, whose pass was converted by Ki Sung-Yeung’s low drive.
Van Gaal switched to a 4-4-2 for the second half, bringing Nani into the fray and pushing Ashley Young to left-back. It was initially a success as new captain Wayne Rooney equalised with an improvised bicycle kick.
But playing wingers as defenders is a risk and, with Young slightly out of position, Swansea went in front again as Sigurdsson drilled home.
Like last season, United toiled when chasing the game and fell to an embarrassing defeat that will represent a huge blow to Van Gaal’s hopes of restoring the club’s place at English football’s top table.
Ryan Giggs and Louis van Gaal (Reuters)
Pre-match: £29m signing Ander Herrera was always going to play, but young centre-half Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard – a no.10 asked to play right wingback – were given surprise debuts. Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Robin van Persie, Antonio Valencia and Tom Cleverley all missed out.
14’ – YUK! What appears to either be a dollop of spittle or a bird poo lands in Ashley Young’s mouth as he prepares to defend a free-kick.
23’ – INJURY: Following a challenge by Ashley Williams, Lingard’s dream debut is over a quarter of the way in. Knee injury, although he was able to walk off.
25’ – HISTORY! Magic spray is used for the first time in England, to mark the 10 yards after United win a free-kick.
28’ – GOAL! United 0-1 Swansea: Against the run of play the visitors tear United apart on the break, as Sigurdsson – with help from Wilfried Bony’s block on Phil Jones – picks out Ki. The Korean drills a fine low finish past David De Gea. United’s back three all over the place.
46’ – TACTICAL CHANGE: Van Gaal appears to accept that 3-5-2 is confusing his charges, reverts to a back four and introduces Nani.
53’ – GOAL! United 1-1 Swansea: Mata’s fine corner is knocked on by Jones, and Rooney brilliantly adjusts his body to fire home an overhead kick.
73’ – GOAL! United 1-2 Swansea: Disaster for United! Jefferson Montero’s fine cross lands at the feet of Wayne Routledge, who is all alone as Young is caught out of position. The scuffed cross lands at Sigurdsson’s feet, and it’s bundled past De Gea.
83’ – FELLAINI IN TROUBLE: He appears to elbow Ki in the face after the Korean fouled him, but Mike Dean books the Swansea man.
90+4 – PENALTY APPEAL: The ball strikes Angel Rangel’s elbow in the penalty area, and while his back was turned to goal, his arm was poking out!
Wayne Rooney scores an overhead kick for Manchester United against Swansea (Reuters)
This was Manchester United’s first home defeat in the top-flight’s opening weekend for 42 years.
In the Premier League era, Manchester United are the only team to have won the title after losing the opening game (three times).
However, no team has won the title after losing the first match of the season at home.
Van Gaal has his work cut out for him – in the transfer market, and on the training ground. Pre-season implied that he had managed to restore some of the Ferguson magic to last term’s horrorshow, but when the curtain was raised they reverted to type. Three at the back may be a botched experiment too.
Swansea City celebrate Ki Sung-Yeung's goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford (Reuters)
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea): On his second debut for the club, the Iceland midfielder created one and scored another. He looks at home in a Swansea shirt and will be their main creative outlet now Michu is gone.
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 6; Jones 6, Smalling 5, Blackett 6; Lingard NA, Fletcher 5, Herrera 5, Young 5; Mata 6; Rooney 6, Hernandez 5; Subs: Fellaini 5, Nani 5, Januzaj 6.
SWANSEA CITY: Fabianski 7, Rangel 6, Amat 6, Williams 7, Taylor 6, Ki 7, Shelvey 6, Dyer 6, Sigurdsson 7, Routledge 6, Bony 6... Subs: Tiendalli 6, Montero 7, Gomis NA.
MATCH IN A TWEET:
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester United
- Gylfi Sigurdsson
- Jesse Lingard
- Ashley Young
- Wayne Rooney
- David De Gea
- Van Gaal