Manchester United’s Dutch striker Robin van Persie (right) scores the opening goal of the match against Swansea City at Liberty Stadium in Swansea, south Wales, yesterday.
LONDON, England: Manchester United manager David Moyes picked up where Alex Ferguson left off yesterday as the Premier League champions began their title defence by winning 4-1 at Swansea City.
It was United’s first league game with a new manager in the dug-out but a pair of braces from Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck banished any first-day nerves.
On a damp, drizzly day in south Wales, Moyes recalled Wayne Rooney to his squad.
It was last season’s hero who provided the breakthrough, however, with Van Persie chesting down a high pass from Ryan Giggs and then hooking a superb acrobatic volley past goalkeeper Michel Vorm in the 34th minute.
Swansea, had poked and probed intelligently until then, but they were hit with a sucker-punch two minutes later when Welbeck tapped in United’s second from Antonio Valencia’s low cross.
Rooney came on with half an hour remaining to make his first club appearance since May 5, but it was Van Persie’s day and he made it 3-0 by lashing a glorious shot into Vorm’s top-right corner from 20 yards.
Sloppy play by Welbeck allowed home debutant Wilfried Bony to pull a goal back for Swansea, but the England man atoned in injury time by racing onto Rooney’s pass and beating Vorm with an exquisite chip.
Earlier, Arsenal were booed off by their own fans at the Emirates Stadium after conceding two penalties and seeing Laurent Koscielny sent off in a calamitous 3-1 home defeat by Aston Villa.
Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal a sixth-minute lead, but Christian Benteke equalised in the 22nd minute by following up with a header after his penalty was parried by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Koscielny conceded the penalty from which Benteke put the visitors ahead and after the France centre-back was sent off for a second booking, Villa new boy Antonio Luna completed victory by running clear and coolly wrong-footing Szczesny.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is still to make a significant pre-season signing, apologised to the club’s supporters for his side’s performance.
“What hurts me is to disappoint people who love the club,” said the Frenchman, who also saw full-backs Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna go off due to injury.
“All the rest I have to live with, but I’m here to make people happy and when I do not I can only say sorry and come back and make them happy in the next game.”
Earlier, new recruit Simon Mignolet saved an 89th-minute penalty to earn Liverpool a 1-0 win over Stoke City at Anfield.
With Liverpool leading from Daniel Sturridge’s crisp 37th-minute drive, the former Sunderland goalkeeper repelled Jon Walters’ spot-kick and then brilliantly blocked Kenwyne Jones’ follow-up after Daniel Agger was penalised for handball.
“We bought him because he is a top, top goalkeeper and he had three saves to make in total,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after the first match of the season. AFP