Manchester United slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Swansea City after briefly going ahead at the Liberty Stadium.

Ander Herrera finished off a fine move to give the Reds the lead in the first half, but they were in front for less than two minutes when Ki Sung-yueng slipped through the defence to level the scores. Bafetimbi Gomis then diverted a rasping Jonjo Shelvey shot with his head for a goal that ultimately condemned United to a first defeat on the road since November’s Manchester derby.

That United dominated for a long spell after half-time without converting pressure into chances will make the defeat, that sees the Reds slip into fourth place ahead of Southampton taking on Liverpool on Sunday, even more galling.

Louis van Gaal opted to make three changes from the side that started against Preston, with Robin van Persie, Phil Jones – on his 23rd birthday – and Paddy McNair replacing Radamel Falcao, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia.

Herrera was making his first start in the Barclays Premier League since 2 December, and the Spanish midfielder made a vital intervention in defence early on. Gomis arrowed a header goalwards from a corner, but Herrera made a crucial block on the line with replays showing that only part of the ball had crossed the line.

Swansea’s French forward Gomis was soon allowed another free header, and Wayne Routledge had the space to fire a shot at David De Gea as the hosts failed to take advantage of the chances presented to them in the opening stages. United looked to be finding their feet when van Persie skimmed the

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