Manchester United failed to restore their six point lead at the top of the Premier League after a disappointing draw with Swansea.
The main concern for Sir Alex Ferguson would be the shocking performance of his talisman Wayne Rooney and his right winger, Antonio Valencia. The latter is more cause for concern.
The Ecuadorian has been out of sorts all season and seems bereft of ideas when on the ball.
The major issue for Ferguson is that there is very little that can be done to solve the problem; Valencia’s alternative, Nani, is currently injured and seemingly on his way out of Old Trafford.
Short of altering his system, Ferguson will have to make do with Valencia in the hope that he will find his old rampaging self.
Rooney, on the other hand, seemed to have one of his traditional off days that usually occur around the festive period. The striker's touch was heavy, his passing inaccurate and his shooting woeful.
He was rightfully hauled off on the 75th minute mark, though he should have been subbed much earlier such was his lack of input. Ferguson will be hoping that Rooney’s poor game was only a blip and not a sign of things to come.
From Swansea’s point of view, they will no doubt be happy with the draw. They produced a good first half in which they deservedly equalised through their star man, Michu.
They matched United on the shot and possession count during the initial 45 minutes. The second half was a different story however as United went in search of three points.
Swansea seemed happy to dig deep and keep United at bay; a strategy that ultimately proved successful. The inclusion of Agustien, a rare start for the Dutchman, was a good choice by Swansea manager Michael Laudrup.
Agustien’s energy halted many United attacks whilst he also offered a decent threat when Swansea attacked.
United in fairness were unlucky not to have scored a winner during the second half. Robin Van Persie hit the bar with a looping volley, whilst Michael Carrick forced a very good save from Michel Vorm, who deflected the midfielder’s header onto the bar.
Finally, United had a strong penalty shout turned down after Ashley Young’s half volley was deflected off the goal-line seemingly with Ben Davies’ arm.
It perhaps would have been harsh to award the penalty, but Young seemed adamant that Davies illegally quashed his golden opportunity.
United will see the draw as two points dropped. Nevertheless, they have the opportunity to make amends with their next two league games, both of which will be played at Old Trafford.
First up is Newcastle on Boxing Day, then its West Brom three days later. United will expect six points from those two games which and to head into the new year in top spot.
Swansea, meanwhile, have a good chance to solidify themselves in the top of the table. They face two away trips to relegation-threatened Reading and struggling Fulham.
Should Manchester United be concerned about Valencia? Or will he come good?
image: © Magnus D