The late dismissal of defender Fabio certainly did not aid United’s cause but the manner and speed in which they have fallen from the summit of the English game has been little short of astonishing.
“It’s a massive blow,” said United midfielder Darren Fletcher who was appearing at Old Trafford for the first time in 13 months. “Let’s not kid ourselves here, this is a really bad result, and there are a lot of angry, hurt players.
“We feel we have let the manager and the fans and everyone down by losing and it’s not good enough.”
Moyes, as has become his default position, tried to kid himself — and the attendant media — claiming United had played well enough to win the third round tie. But, rather than the fact that this was Swansea’s first ever victory at Old Trafford, or just the second time in 29 years that United have exited the FA Cup in the third round, the most alarming statistic is the game also represented United’s fourth home loss in their last six games.
Such are the depths to which United and Moyes have sunk.
“I thought we played quite well in the first half,” claimed Moyes. “We should have taken more chances. I don’t think we come away thinking we deserved to lose the game but we did do. Going down to 10 men was a turning point as well.”
Fabio’s crude two-footed lunge on Jose Canas after 80 minutes — less than four minutes after his introduction into the game — correctly earned him a straight red card and, with Fletcher filling in as emergency right-back, Wayne Routledge marauded past him in the final minute of normal time and crossed for Bony to head home from six yards.
This was viewed as a tie which, along with tomorrow’s Capital One Cup first leg semi-final trip to Sunderland, represented Moyes’ last realistic chance of bringing silverware to United in his debut season and, as such, United hardly made the most auspicious of starts, going behind to Routledge’s opening goal after just 12 minutes.
It was a goal carved out by the sort of slick, one-touch passing football for which Swansea have become renowned under manager Michael Laudrup, with Bony and Alejandro Pozuelo exchanging passes and the latter catching United’s back-line square with a perfect pass. Routledge did the rest, sprinting ahead of Chris Smalling before lobbing Anders Lindegaard in the United goal with a perfectly-judged finish.
This was a big test of United’s resolve and the response was swift with Javier Hernandez equalising within four minutes.
Alexander Buttner whipped over a dangerous cross and the Mexican forward arrived between markers Chico Flores and Neil Taylor to finish from close range.
United just about deserved to be level, based on the first half, although, as has been the case throughout so much of this disappointing season to date, they were far from their impressive former best.
Hernandez had an early run and shot well blocked by Dwight Tiendalli, the same United forward miskicked badly from 12 yards and, following the exchange of goals, Antonio Valencia poked the ball narrowly over after Danny Welbeck’s lay-off.
Hernandez had a couple of other half chances before the interval but the visitors opened the second half in the ascendancy with Pozuelo and Bony having sights of, and long shots at, goal.
But it would be a second half of few chances — and more injury concern for Moyes as defender Rio Ferdinand, making his first appearance since the start of December, limped off with a knee injury in the 75th minute after an accidental collision.
By that stage, Moyes had brought on his exciting young winger Adnan Januzaj in a futile attempt to breathe some life into his team’s attacking play, the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie being keenly felt. But the entry, and rapid dismissal, of Fabio was another blow for the home side in their attempts to secure a fourth round place.
MAN UNITED (4-4-2): Lindegaard 6; Smalling 5, Evans 6, Ferdinand 5 (Fabio 76), Büttner 8; Valencia 6 (Januzaj 63, 6), Fletcher 5, Cleverley 6, Kagawa 5; Welbeck 7, Hernandez 6.
SWANSEA (4-2-3-1): Tremmel 7; Tiendalli 7, Chico Flores 8, Amat 7, Taylor 7; De Guzman 7 (Vazquez 85), Britton 7; Pozuelo 8; Shelvey 7 (Canas 64, 7), Routledge 7; Bony 9.
Referee: Mike Dean.