Swansea City 1 Manchester United 1: Sir Alex Ferguson's rant shows it's a job well done
YOU know you have done all right against Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson starts ranting after the game.
It is safe to say Swansea City did all right yesterday, therefore, given that Sir Alex suggested afterwards that Ashley Williams "could have killed" Robin van Persie.
This was a rather startling claim given that Williams's crime, if that is the right word, was to kick the ball against van Persie's head.
Sir Alex's outburst was not the only thing which raised eyebrows at the Liberty Stadium.
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The other was the result.
Swansea, with a starting team that cost around half as much to put together as United paid for their right-back, went toe to toe with the biggest club in the land and emerged with a rousing draw.
No wonder Sir Alex wasn't impressed, for his team's lead at the top of the Premier League is down to four points as a result of their failure to win in Wales.
Swansea, meantime, are a very healthy 11th at Christmas.
They reach the halfway point in the league campaign at Reading on Boxing Day knowing a victory over the bottom club would give them 27 points.
"If we turned with that many points it would not be great," suggested Michael Laudrup, "it would be excellent."
Laudrup did not want to think too much about the Reading game last night despite the fact that he has said all along that the Madesjki Stadium trip is more significant than a home game with United.
Instead the Swansea manager wanted to draw breath, to take in yet another landmark result for this team.
"In the end, we got a great point," he added.
"I am pleased for the players, the staff, the club and the supporters.
"I was told before this game that maybe Swansea showed too much respect to Manchester United before they played them last season, that the players had only seen United on TV before and it showed.
"But this year it was completely different, and we will enjoy it for 24 hours or so before we start thinking about Reading, which is the more important game."
In Denmark the big celebrations at this time of year take place on the night of Christmas Eve, when families traditionally get together for some roast duck and sing carols while standing around the Christmas tree.
Laudrup should be in the mood for a singsong this evening after his Swansea success story continued with a first positive result in the Premier League against the giants of Old Trafford.
"Obviously I am pleased," he added.
"They started the game a bit better than us. They got the goal and for five or ten minutes it seemed as though they may score again, which would have made things very difficult for us.
"But we came back and got the equaliser, and I felt the first half was equal.
"The second half was much more open, going from one end to the other.
"They had more of the ball and they created more chances, but I felt the game could have gone either way."
It could have done, but Swansea would have been fortunate to win this one. Had that happened, Sir Alex would probably have gone into meltdown.
The United boss was left frustrated after Swansea, whose brilliant rearguard effort was led by Williams and Chico Flores, held out for a point against van Persie, Wayne Rooney et al.
Laudrup's men were clinging on in the final quarter, when fatigue spread through home ranks and there was no threat on David De Gea's goal.
Laudrup's decisions to take off Leon Britton and Jonathan de Guzman left Swansea a little light in midfield, particularly when a weary Kemy Agustien limped out of the action in the dying minutes.
Swansea, whose sole aim by this stage was to hang on for a draw, were left with two strikers, two wingers and two midfielders who like to get forward defending their back four.
And this against a club renowned for scoring late goals and blessed with arguably the most gifted frontline in the land.
"In the last 25 minutes both sides played with much more risk," said Laudrup.
"They basically left players up front and we had three, sometimes three and a half. In that situation you need two centre-halves who can play man-on-man very well, and I thought my two were great.
"You cannot really say it was against nobody, either, when you consider the players United have up front."
It was not a shock to see Swansea stand up to the leaders given the strides they have made against the top clubs in the last 16 months.
But this was another hurdle cleared for Swansea given that this was a first positive result against the Red Devils.
All the other heavyweight Premier League clubs had dropped points against Swansea, yet they had not even managed a goal against United until the 29th minute yesterday.
"If you look at our games up until now against the big teams, we have done well," Laudrup pointed out.
"Against Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea we did well, only Tottenham was a game where we did less."
After defeat at Spurs seven days earlier, Swansea were staring at three straight reverses when Patrice Evra rose highest to nod van Persie's corner into the far corner.
United, after all, had not dropped points this season having taken the lead in a game, and neither had they played out a Premier League draw.
Swansea were a little unfortunate to be behind given that Michu had twice had a sniff of goal while Wayne Routledge scuffed a shot straight at David De Gea.
But United suddenly burst into life, Rooney forcing a save from Michel Vorm before Michael Carrick's sweet pass teed up Ashley Young.
His point-blank drive was repelled by Vorm, only for left-back Evra to head home from the corner which followed.
"We know we have some problems with set-pieces, and that's partly the price you pay for having players like ours," Laudrup said.
"People like Leon, Nathan (Dyer), Jonathan and Wayne (Routledge) are not big players, but they are the kind we need to play our football."
And that football causes problems, even for opponents of United's quality.
Swansea responded admirably to the opening goal, de Guzman going through on the goalkeeper only for referee Michael Oliver to blow up for a foul by Michu.
The Spanish international in waiting was soon in the action again, heading Dyer's centre over the top, before a typically slick Swansea move cut United open.
Agustien, who was outstanding having been given a first league start since January, laid the foundations for the goal, putting his foot on the ball before picking out Routledge.
His delicious touch meant a shooting chance for de Guzman and, when his effort was only parried, Michu swept the ball into the net.
"This was a typical centre-forward's goal, but really Michu is a midfielder who can play up front," Laudrup said.
Whatever his best position, the Swansea man is once again the leading marksman in the Premier League after van Persie was shut out yesterday.
Given that Michu cost only £2.2 million, Swansea's followers will have high hopes for the January transfer window.
Laudrup, after all, has money to spend, and all the signs are that he is poised for another raid on La Liga.
Before the transfer market opens for business, of course, Swansea have two more league games, with another to come against Aston Villa on New Year's Day.
If they defend in each of those with the determination and desire that was on display against United, the points will keep coming.
Swansea actually began the second period with some attacking intent, Agustien forcing a decent stop from De Gea before Routledge had the Spanish starlet scrambling to save at his near post.
But it was United who carried the greater threat as the game wore on.
First Young's shot was blocked brilliantly by Williams, then van Persie's loopy volley bounced off the top of the crossbar.
After the Williams-van Persie clash, Rooney's free-kick was repelled by the Wales captain.
The van Persie corner which followed was met by a Carrick header which seemed certain to hit the net before Michel Vorm marked his return after injury with one of the saves of the season, pushing the ball on to the bar.
There was one more major scare for Swansea, when Evra overlapped and pulled the ball back for van Persie.
His shot was blocked — yet again — by Williams before Ben Davies got in the way of Young's follow-up.
"If you look at the changes Manchester United made in the second half, you could see they really wanted to win the game," Laudrup said.
"It's a very important moment for them, so it's a very good point for us."