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Nov 19, 2011

Swansea faithful steal the show

Anyone who fears the Premier League is losing its sparkle should spend 90 minutes in the company of joyous Swansea supporters who are serving to remind even the harshest sceptic that this game can turn fantasy into reality.

While this may just have been another league fixture for a Manchester United team who knew they could not lose any more ground on local rivals City after their victory over Newcastle earlier in the day, the date of Saturday, November 19, 2011 has long been circled in the diary of Swansea fans as being their brightest time in the spotlight.

It lived up to its billing as not even the defeat inflicted upon Brendan Rodgers and his gallant team could dilute an occasion that was as grand as any this club has played host to in this or any other generation, a celebration of all things Welsh on a day when the eyes of the world and the ESPN TV cameras focused their attention on the success story that is Swansea City.

This club's remarkable revival from the brink of oblivion to the highest profile stages in English football has been well documented in recent months and this was night when the feel-good factor this club has brought to the Premier League reached fever pitch.

The pre-match show was worthy of a Cup final in itself, with a choir of powerful Welsh opera singers offering up a version of Coldplay's Viva La Vida before United legend Sir Bobby Charlton was joined on the pitch by a fellow survivor of the 1958 Munich air crash, former Swansea star Kenny Morgans, to receive the plaudits of euphoric supporters.

This really was a night for celebration and the noise reverberating around this Liberty Stadium as the match got underway was breathtaking, with the excitement among the Swansea fans translating into hearty anthems being belted out by all present as referee Mike Dean began proceedings.

The din barely died down for the first ten minutes of the match as every tackle won by a Swansea player was greeted with raucous cheers, every throw-in won a triumph worthy of an ovation, before reality was to bite back as a Swansea error and a moment of United class served to temporarily dip the volume levels to mute.

Welshman Ryan Giggs was creator in chief as he found space in the box and his cross to Javier Hernandez was predictably inch perfect, with the finish from the deadly Mexican typical of a striker who rarely misses such openings.

United may have taken an early lead, but the home fans merely brushed themselves down and after a brief lull, started signing once again and yet the action on the field was not giving them much to cling onto as United proceeded to stamp their authority on their opponents in a one-sided the first half.

However, despite the possession imbalance, Swansea were presented with a glorious chance to alter the course of this game as Scott Sinclair found himself starring at an open goal as the ball sped towards him after 22 minutes, but his lack of control when the moment of glory beckoned may haunt him for some time. The home side were not to get a better chance for the rest of the game.

The introduction of Joe Allen at half time gave Swansea a touch more inventive verve down the left flank and the renewed optimism of the Liberty Stadium regulars translated into more vocal cord straining from the vocal Welsh supporters that barely rescinded for the entire second half.

However, the team they were trying to rouse simply didn't have enough invention to crack United's defence and it was the visitors who came closest to scoring next as Rooney, Phil Jones and Nani all fluffed chances to wrap the game up as Swansea's energy levels dipped long with their belief late on. This was a job well done by United and their manager confirmed as much with his post match briefing. "Swansea have a great home record and we had to make sure we respected that and defended well today, which has not always been the case this season," stated Ferguson.

"The goals we conceded in some recent games were a good wake up call for us because our concentration had been lacking in some games of late, but we were fully focused in this game and didn't give them too many chances.

"Michael Carrick put in a great performance holding the midfield together and the squad we have are good enough make an impact whether they start the game or some off the bench. We saw that with the way Darren Fletcher and Antonio Valencia put in a great effort after they came off the bench.

"All we can do is worry about ourselves and as long as we are near the top of the table around Christmas time, everyone knows we will kick on in the second half of the season. City will drop points at some stage and we have to make sure we are ready to take advantage."

Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers lavished his players with praise even though they had fallen to their first home defeat since last February. "We were in awe of United in the first half and I can understand why that might be the case," stated the quietly spoken Northern Irishman.

"My lads have spent most of their lives looking up to the players they were up against today and we had to get our minds on playing a match rather than our opponents. I felt we did that in the second half as our performance was so much better after the break, but we just weren't quite good enough to get the goal we needed.

"Despite that, I take great pride in our performance and we have to try and take the positives of our second half performance into our next game."

The harsh truth must be that Swansea were not good enough to give their wonderful supporters the golden moment they craved, but United did not come to Wales to take part in any kind of benefit event. They were here for business and didn't dare to show any mercy to their commendable hosts.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Javier Hernandez. He snapped up the first chance that came his way with typical aplomb and was a constant menace with his intelligent runs and attacking craft.

SWEET SOUND OF LIBERTY: Those who have visited Arsenal's Emirates Stadium or even the new Wembley will confirm that while sparkling new modern football stadia offer so much in the way of comfort and space, they can be guilty of lacking a soul. Swansea play in another of these newly constructed arena, but their supporters turn the Liberty Stadium into an amphitheatre. This place is a great addition to the list of Premier League venues.

SWANSEA VERDICT: They failed to create enough chances to trouble the United back line who looked comfortable for a majority of this game. However, their effort, commitment and desire bodes well in their efforts to plot a route to survival in the Premier League.

UNITED VERDICT: This was hardly a vintage performance, but the final result was all that mattered after Manchester City had eight points clear at the top of the table earlier in the day. Roberto Mancini's men are setting a searing pace at the top of the table, but United are staying with them, for now.

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