Wayne Rooney scored the winner with a deft flick as Manchester United beat Swansea 2-1 in the Premier League to end its eight-game winless run and earn manager Louis van Gaal some respite on Saturday.
Anthony Martial, who had put United ahead in the 47th minute, crossed low and Rooney glanced in a finish with his heel to become the club’s outright second-highest scorer with 238 goals. The 77th-minute strike was Rooney’s first United goal in two months.
Van Gaal hadn’t seen United win since Nov. 21, during which time the team slipped out of the Champions League and the Premier League’s top four to leave the Dutchman’s position under threat.
This result should ease the pressure, although there had been more doubts after Gylfi Sigurdsson equalized in the 70th minute for manager-less and relegation-threatened Swansea.
In the game’s last act, Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski rose to plant a header just wide of the post for what would have been another blow to Van Gaal and United after their poor run of results.
Rooney’s goal also put him alone in second in the all-time list of Premier League top scorers on 188, behind Alan Shearer’s 260.
Van Gaal deployed a three-man defense to give the team more attacking options after its recent scoring woes but when the halftime whistle was blown, United had failed to score a first-half goal again. The last one was in September – and that was a penalty.
The atmosphere was funereal at times, save for chants from the away end about Van Gaal’s fragile position.
Juan Mata had two shots saved by Fabianski, who also clutched a header from Rooney. There was still only a smattering of boos at halftime and the crowd finally came alive when Martial came in off his left-wing position and met a cross from Ashley Young with a downward header into the net.
The goal sparked United into life, with the team’s passing becoming sharper and Ander Herrera shooting over, but Swansea almost equalized when Andre Ayew headed Sigurdsson’s cross against the post in the 64th.
Swansea was causing problems down United’s left, where halftime substitute Matteo Darmian was being overrun, and the goal came from that flank. Substitute Modou Barrow worked some space, cut back and then floated a short cross over for Sigurdsson, who looped a header over goalkeeper David de Gea.
Rooney saved United, though, after more good work by Martial down the left to earn United a first league win in seven attempts.