Slump over? Manchester United arrested their run of three straight defeats with what ultimately ended up being a comfortable victory against FA Cup tormentors Swansea City, overcoming an insipid first half to emerge as the swaggering menace football fans are more familiar with after the break.
Although Swansea had the better of the play in the first half -- they won the possession battle by an absurd 66-34 percent at the interval -- and whenever United did have the ball, they were devastatingly placid with it, the hosts actually had some fantastic chances to break the deadlock even before they went ahead.
Adnan Januzaj's free kick probably shouldn't have been given. Although Jordi Amat definitely fouled Danny Welbeck just outside the box, Chris Foy rightly played advantage upon seeing the ball break to Antonio Valencia. As soon as Gerhard Tremmel had blocked the subsequent shot, however, the referee brought play back, effectively giving United two bites of the cherry. They very nearly took advantage. Januzaj's delivery was superb, clearing the wall, beating the keeper and dipping down viciously towards the end. But instead of going in, it rebounded off the top of the bar. Swansea were spared.
The visitors were also let off the hook, albeit in slightly different fashion, just after the half-hour mark. Valencia and Rafael combined very well down the United right, the former drawing Ben Davies out of position and then slipping his right back into the resultant space with a perfectly-weighted pass. Rafael's cross found Welbeck ten yards from goal, but his snapshot, perhaps as a result of pressure from Amat, scooted inches wide of the far post.
Those blips aside, Swansea seemed more or less in control. Having already won at Old Trafford last weekend, there was no fear factor, and they were playing some very good football. It was, however, rendered more or less meaningless by a lack of end product -- they seemed more interested in weaving intricate passing patterns just ahead of the United defence than actually producing scoring chances.
And that's why, after dominating the first 45 minutes, they found themselves behind just after the restart. Manchester United emerged from the break a completely different team, imposing themselves rather than acting as a passive, sulking substrate upon which Swansea could muck about. Within seconds, the home side had their winner.
The visitors failed to deal with Januzaj's left-sided cross, allowing Shinji Kagawa a free header at the back post. The midfielder nodded back across Tremmel, and although the German managed to get a hand to it, he couldn't prevent the rebound from falling straight to Valencia, who promptly (and from a suspiciously offside position) tapped home to make it 1-0.
United weren't done with just one goal, either. Fifteen minutes later, after weathering the tepid drizzle that constituted Swansea's attempts to restore parity, the hosts doubled their lead. Again, a Januzaj cross was the catalyst; again the Swans couldn't properly clear it. This time the ball fell to Patrice Evra just outside the box, and although his shot was going off target, Welbeck stepped in front of it and re-directed the effort into the bottom corner with an impudent flick.
The game was over, which made comical misses from first Chris Smalling and then Shinji Kagawa easier to bear. The former managed to balloon a volley over goal despite being virtually under the crossbar when he made contact with the ball, and the latter saw his shot cleared off the line by Leon Britton following sublime work from both Januzaj and Rafael.
Had those misses happened at 0-0, it might have been devastating. As it was, United had the points in the bag, and now they have a chance to seriously turn around their season when they travel to Stamford Bridge next week.
Manchester United starting lineup (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Patrice Evra (Alexander Buttner 79), Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, Rafael; Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher; Adnan Januzaj, Shinji Kagawa, Antonio Valencia; Danny Welbeck .
Goals: Valencia 47', Welbeck 59'.
Swansea City starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Gerhard Tremmel; Ben Davies, Ashley Williams, Jordi Amat, Angel Rangel; Jose Canas (Chico Flores 17'), Leon Britton;Wayne Routledge, Jonjo Shelvey , Pozuelo; Wilfried Bony.