Manchester United's seven-game winless streak is over, thanks to a briefly nervous but mostly competent victory over Swansea City. Though United were never truly impressive, they showed good character to retake the lead, and picked up three points that moves them up to fifth in the Premier League and ensures Louis van Gaal will be keeping his job, at least for the moment.
As against Chelsea, United started with a little more spark than has been the norm this season. Ander Herrera worked himself a shooting chance after just two minutes, though his outside-of-the-foot effort was too close to Lukas Fabianksi. But visitors to Old Trafford know that they just need to keep their shape and wait for United's ideas to dry up, and so it proved again; despite some encouraging touches from Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera, and despite nominal fullback Ashley Young spending most of his time advanced on the wing, it didn't take long for United to become becalmed.
What half-chances came — a couple of weak Wayne Rooney headers, the occasional scuffed shot from Juan Mata — were either blocked by Swansea's assiduous defenders or ended up in Fabianski's gloves. United weren't exactly playing badly, but they were some distance from threatening and given the relative importance of the game, the players were curiously subdued.
But then. It happened. It really happened. Two minutes into the second half, having again made a bright start, Manchester United scored a goal. An actual goal. Quite a nice one as well: Ashley Young did well on the right, collecting an improvised pass and then delivering neatly to Martial, who beat Fabianksi with a firm header into the ground.
It took Swansea almost 20 minutes to muster some kind of response. United spent that time passing the ball around confidently and prettily without extending their lead, and were nearly made to pay for it when Andre Ayew drifted beyond the defence and planted a free header into the post. And ten minutes later the visitors were level: Matteo Darmian gave Madou Barrow far too much space on the right side of the penalty area, and Gylfi Sigurdsson met his cross with a clever flick-header that floated over David de Gea.
But then. It happened. It really happened. Wayne Rooney scored a goal. An actual goal. A genuinely excellent one as well: Anthony Martial deleted Federico Fernandez with a drop of his shoulder, sashayed his way to the byline and squared the ball to his captain, who (to everybody's surprise, including possibly his own) flicked a backheeled finish into Fabianski's net. Vaguely fitting, to overtake Denis Law with a goal like that.
There was still time for Ashley Williams to force a good save from De Gea and Fabianksi — yep, Fabianksi — to place a header just past the post, but United were able to hold on for the win. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't comfortable, but Old Trafford will be a slightly happier place this coming week.