Swansea City: A triumph of style and substance

By Aled WilliamsBBC Wales Sport
Joe Allen, Swansea City, and Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
Joe Allen, Swansea City

Did someone say this was going to be easy?

Nine months earlier Swansea City had arrived in Manchester as Premier League new boys as apprehensive as a new kid starting his first day at school.

Exciting times were ahead, but it was not going to be an easy ride.

A 4-0 defeat at Manchester City in their opening game reaffirmed that.

But Brendan Rodgers's side slowly settled into life among the elite, claiming one or two notable scalps along the way.

With their top flight safety already secure, Swansea would end their away days for this season at Old Trafford.

No team visiting the Theatre of Dreams, especially in the throes of a title finale, would expect an easy afternoon.

Caught up in the Manchester title race, Swansea started confidently, no doubt fired up by City manager Roberto Mancini's easy jibe aimed at United.

The travelling fans too were making themselves heard with the rather subdued home supporters still no doubt mulling over City's win at Newcastle.

It was a far from easy start for the Red Devils during the opening 20 minutes.

But the home side soon found their rhythm. Michel Vorm was forced into a double save before Paul Scholes lifted the pressure with barely half an hour gone.

Maybe now Mancini's predictions of an easy game would be realised.

Like they had done back in August a few miles away at Eastlands, Swansea looked comfortable going forward but on too many occasions the final ball let them down.

But Swansea's success this season has also been based on a solid defence and they had to stand firm as United pushed forward to add to their tally.

Acutely aware of the title being decided on goal difference on the final weekend, United pushed for more goals and Ashley Young added a second five minutes before half-time.

The interval came at the wrong time for United, giving time for Rodgers's men to regroup.

They emerged for the second half showing the same attacking intent as they had during the opening 45 minutes. They had no intention of meekly surrendering.

They continued to frustrate United and had chances of their own, most notably through Gylfi Sigurdsson, who has been pivotal during the second half of the season.

As the game reached its conclusion those Manchester United fans electing to leave the ground early were almost resigned to the fact this was not likely to be their season.

Swansea fans, as you would expect, stayed until the end - celebrating not only a credible first season in English football's top division but how far they've come during the last decade.

It's easy to forget that things haven't always been easy for Swansea City.

Nine years ago the very thought of playing at Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend of the season with Premier League safety already assured would have been unimaginable.

On that day in May 2003, when Manchester United came within touching distance of their eighth Premier League title, Swansea were battling for Football League survival.

A 4-2 win over Hull City on the final day of the Third Division season at their old Vetch ground saved Swansea from non-league oblivion and marked the beginning of a remarkable journey.

Under the leadership of Huw Jenkins and an astute board, the Swans have made steady progress on and off the field and have slowly ascended the English leagues.

They have risen to the top flight playing a brand of attractive football which has won many admirers this season and, crucially, enough points to ensure safety.

As he reflected on the afternoon and the season while pitchside at Old Trafford, Rodgers spoke of his side's "fantastic" season but acknowledged the work ahead.

"I feel that the players have really coped and how they've represented us in terms of the football, their commitment, personality, desire and passion has been phenomenal," he said.

"It's a great privilege to lead the club this first season in the Premier League and hope to now continue our work to improve and move forward."