Manchester United manager David Moyes picked up where Sir Alex Ferguson left off on Saturday as the Premier League champions began their title defense by winning 4-1 at Swansea City.
It was United’s first league game with a new manager in the dugout since Ferguson took his side to Oxford United on Nov. 8, 1986, but a brace apiece 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 after the unsettled striker proved his fitness with a 66-minute turn in England’s 3-2 win over Scotland last week.
It was last season’s hero who provided the breakthrough, though, 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, the League Cup holders, 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 long-range shot into Vorm’s top-right corner.
Sloppy play by Welbeck allowed home debutant Wilfried Bony to pull a goal back for Swansea, but the England man atoned in stoppage-time by racing onto Rooney’s pass and beating Vorm with an exquisite chip.
“It very much was a Manchester United display. We were clinical in attack and I am very pleased. This is a tough place to come and we won well in the end,” Moyes told BBC Sport. “Today was my first game at Manchester United. I was excited, but it’s just work to me. It’s the same as I’ve done at Everton over the last 10 years or so.”
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 equalized 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 international centerback was sent off for a second booking, Villa new boy Antonio Luna completed the victory by running clear and coolly wrong-footing Szczesny.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is still to make a significant pre-season signing, apologized 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 fullbacks Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna go off with injuries. “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.”
Norwich City’s ￡8.5 million (US$13.3 million) record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel scored a 71st-minute header to earn his new side a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road and prevent Roberto Martinez from tasting victory in his first league game as Everton manager.
Rickie Lambert, who scored the winning goal against Scotland on his England debut last week, completed a memorable few days by snatching a 1-0 win for Southampton with a last-minute penalty at West Bromwich Albion.
Elsewhere, Cardiff City made a disappointing return to the top flight following a 51-year absence after goals from Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan saw them beaten 2-0 at West Ham United, while a 52nd-minute header by Pajtim Kasami gave Fulham a 1-0 win at Sunderland.
Saturday also witnessed a moment of history, with Hawk-Eye used to determine that shots in the matches at Anfield and the Emirates had not crossed the line in the first ever uses of goal-line technology in a domestic league.