ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Manchester United 2; Swansea 1
LONDON • Just as Louis van Gaal suggested that he could seek to solve Manchester United's goal- scoring problems by buying a new striker in the transfer window, his two front-line forwards found their groove to end the Red Devils' eight-match winless run.
United defeated Swansea 2-1 yesterday, with Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney both on the scoresheet.
Martial headed United ahead at the start of the second half only for Gylfi Sigurdsson to equalise in the 69th minute. But Rooney put the hosts back in front in style - back-heeling Martial's ball in from the left.
West Ham 2 Liverpool 0
Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0
Man United 2 Swansea 1
Leicester 0 Bournemouth 0
Norwich 1 Southampton 0
Sunderland 3 Aston Villa 1
West Brom 2 Stoke 1
Watford v Man City
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
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Everton v Tottenham
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It took a while for the home side to get going though - they recorded their ninth straight game at Old Trafford in which they failed to score in the first half.
Before kick-off, the Red Devils had only managed 25 goals in their past 25 games in all competitions, a sequence that included six goal- less draws, putting their manager's job under considerable threat.
"It (a lack of goals) can be solved with money but also on the training pitch," said van Gaal on Friday.
Rooney and Martial had been struggling for form ahead of the Swansea tie: Rooney had not scored in the Premier League since Oct 17, while the Frenchman had found the target just once in domestic competition since September.
Those travails called into question van Gaal's decision to allow strikers Robin van Persie, James Wilson and Javier Hernandez - in the best form of his career for Bayer Leverkusen - to leave Old Trafford without being replaced.
The Dutch manager accepted that United's lack of a cutting edge is what has held them back this campaign, but he dismissed the notion that he has placed Rooney and Martial under too much pressure by refusing to bring in back-up.
"Goals are our problem," he said. "We could have kept all of the strikers, but then there would have been a lot of players in the (stands). They are not happy then. They want to go away. It is the story of Hernandez, for example.
"He wants to play. I can imagine that he cannot always play in this world... Having too many strikers of high quality, all for the same position, is too much pressure. If we had kept all of the strikers, the pressure is from the others, (to see) who is playing, who is sitting on the bench. I do not believe too much in competition. I believe in trust and confidence."
They came good yesterday.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON