van Persie and Danny Welbeck make merry as United crushes Swansea

Arsenal was booed off by its 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 while Manchester United manager David Moyes picked up from where Sir Alex Ferguson left off on Saturday as the English Premier League football champion began its title defence by winning 4-1 at Swansea City.

It was United’s first league game with a new manager in the dug-out since Ferguson took his side to Oxford United on November 8, 1986, 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 after the unsettled striker proved his fitness with a 66-minute turn in England’s 3-2 win over Scotland in mid-week.

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.

Sucker-punch

Swansea, the League Cup holder, had poked and probed intelligently until then, but it was 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, 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 visitor 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 in the opening game of the new season at Anfield.

With Liverpool leading from Daniel Sturridge’s crisp 37th-minute drive, the former Sunderland ‘keeper repelled Jon Walters’ spot-kick and then brilliantly blocked Kenwyne Jones’ follow-up after Daniel Agger was penalised for a handball.

Norwich City’s £8.5 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 in mid-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 it 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 games at Anfield and the Emirates had not crossed the line in the first-ever uses of goal-line technology in a domestic league. — AFP

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