Listless United finally run out of luck

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal lamented his team’s “missed chances”.

FILE: Manchester United’s Dutch manager Louis van Gaal. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal lamented his team's "missed chances" in Saturday's 2-1 Premier League defeat at Swansea but the reality is that his side could only ride their luck for so long.

The Dutchman praised his team's second-half overwhelming possession dominance which did not produce a single clear-cut opportunity and Swansea soaked up the pressure before Jonjo Shelvey unleashed a deflected screamer which beat David De Gea.

"I think it was our best second-half performance, we created a lot of chances and dominated the game but didn't score and you have to score out of the chances you create," Van Gaal told the club's official website.

If anything, it was the outstanding De Gea who was at the heart of United grinding out results which by some way flattered their performances for the best part of the season so far, pulling off a string of superb saves one match after another.

His contribution was especially emphatic in United's 3-0 home win over bitter rivals Liverpool in December, when he kept out more than half a dozen sitters as the Merseyside club were undone by some clinical finishing at the other end.

But occasional flashes of brilliance cannot disguise the multiple frailties of a team which, albeit still very much in the hunt for a top-four finish and Champions League football next season, is a far cry from vintage United sides of the past.

Drafting in Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco paid little dividends as the misfiring Colombian has scored only four league goals and does not look the same player that struck primal fear into defenders before last year's serious knee injury which ruled him out of the 2014 World Cup.

Falcao has failed to hit the ground running in the Premier League's unforgiving high-tempo game and his strike partner Robin van Persie is beginning to look like a spent force after playing a key role in United's 20th league title in 2013 and left the Liberty Stadium on crutches.

Winger Angel Di Maria, bought from Real Madrid for a British transfer record of 59.7 million pounds ($93.8 million), made a bright start but has since suffered a series of niggling injuries and loss of form.

Van Gaal's plethora of systems have also done no favours to the club's top scorer Wayne Rooney, who has been moved across the midfield to accommodate Van Persie and Falcao and reduced to a hardly fathomable one Premier League shot on target in 2015.

Turgid displays have been papered over by De Gea's heroics and huge slices of luck at times but with United still having to face fellow heavyweights in the home straight, the possibility of a second successive barren season remains hanging ominously over their heads.