Swansea City should look forward to the new Premier League season and a Europa League campaign
LEON Britton let out an audible sigh in the pre-match press conference when asked what it meant for someone who had joined a bottom division club to be preparing for a game against Manchester United.
At the dawn of a new campaign, surely there should be excitement about what lies ahead rather than a desire to dwell on the past.
The Swansea City stalwart was not being rude.
It was an instinctive reaction to a question he had been asked countless times before in various forms.
The "doesn't it show how far you've come" line has been trotted out at regular intervals ever since Swansea reached the top flight more than two years ago.
And understandably so.
Britton has been with Swansea for the whole incredible journey from bottom division through successive promotions to the richest league in the world.
He has helped the club stabilise in the top flight, record memorable wins against the division's heavyweights and lifted the Capital One Cup.
Even so, you can forgive the midfielder for appearing slightly tired at having to repeat a well-worn story and reflect on those achievements once more.
You wonder how long this Swansea side will be framed so starkly against their previous struggles.
At what point will people stop focusing on history — because the future looks far better?
Huw Jenkins controversially spoke about his apathy at leaving the Vetch eight years ago, suggesting the old ground had housed more lows than highs and that he was keen to embrace the success he hoped a move to the Liberty would bring.
Rather than reflect, a glance towards the horizon offers mouth-watering possibilities.
The Europa League provides a return to Continental competition after a 22-year absence and the chance for Swansea to showcase their style on new, far-flung stages.
Crossing international waters is the next step on the club's journey, with all the glamour and graft that entails.
Swansea must overcome Romanian side Petrolul Ploiesti over two legs if they are to reach the group stages, where hopefully more illustrious ties await.
But with that comes an increased workload which could have a detrimental effect on the league campaign.
Michael Laudrup's men have a Capital One Cup to defend and can also relish the prospect of a return to the country's most famous grounds during another top-tier adventure.
But Britton is one of the good guys.
Rather than bristle at having to go over old ground, with a smile he again spoke about the huge strides that have been made over recent seasons when the subject was put to him.
The 30-year-old repeated that he never dreamed Swansea would kick off the new campaign against one of the biggest teams in the world when he signed for Brian Flynn's strugglers more than a decade ago.
Even if others refuse to, players have moved on.
Britton was the only member of yesterday's squad who could remember the really dark days.
Laudrup included two new signings in his starting line-up, while £12 million man Wilfried Bony was introduced for the second half, a man it is hoped can continue Swansea's upward trajectory.
Visibly daunted on their season opener against Manchester City two years ago, Swansea no longer feel they have crashed the Premier League party.
They began against City's main rivals with a firm belief that they belong at this level.
Sky Sports cameras were back in SA1 for David Moyes's first competitive game in charge as the spotlight again fell on this corner of South Wales.
And the confidence among home fans was almost tangible before the clash.
A rain-soaked Liberty buzzed with the kind of excitement that always greets the champions' visit.
But this time there was an extra sense of anticipation, and even one of expectation about the fixture.
The visitors were battling to overcome several internal difficulties.
While local band Rag Foundation entertained supporters before kick-off, there was the suggestion that not everyone at United was singing from the same hymn sheet.
Wayne Rooney started on the visitors' bench and was introduced with 15 minutes remaining after weeks of speculation over his future.
The England international is thought to want to leave Old Trafford, while United insist he is staying put.
Moyes's side were without several players through injury, and the manager is still settling into his new position after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of last season.
It was hoped those factors would play into Swansea's hands.
The hosts, by contrast, had been buoyed by a morale-boosting Europa League win over Malmo.
They had demonstrated a cut-throat slickness in the first leg of that game that defied predictions of rustiness and fuelled feelings of positivity among the home ranks.
It was felt that match would help to give Swansea a competitive advantage over the visitors and led many pundits to predict a draw — or even a home win.
After a couple of superb seasons, Swansea are now regarded as a thoroughbred top-flight team by many, though Laudrup insisted in his programme notes they are three or four years away from considering themselves established at this level.
Unfortunately, the pre-match optimism soon disappeared.
And Laudrup's composed message about not getting carried away turned out to be an apt warning before a game in which United brought Swansea crashing back down to earth.
Just as some were predicting a lofty top-six finish, the Red Devils proved that Swansea can still be exposed.
There are likely to be other setbacks, but hopefully also a few triumphs, between now and May.
Unlike Britton, Swansea will be asked new questions this term as a European campaign adds to their schedule.
Pundits will once again ponder whether Laudrup's men can continue to advance in the same sensational fashion as recent years.
It is too early to draw any firm conclusions following an opening defeat against a side like Manchester United.
The answers lie further down the line, so let's just look forward to the next nine months.