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Swansea's Andre Ayew shuts down doubters with graft against Man Utd

BY: www.walesonline.co.uk
Swansea's Andre Ayew shuts down doubters with graft against Man Utd
Swansea's Andre Ayew shuts down doubters with graft against Man Utd

A trip to Old Trafford often involves a lot of thankless work for the visiting forward players and so it proved for Andre Ayew on Saturday, but the Ghanaian's performance should silence any remaining question marks over his desire to play for Swansea City.

As January progressed and the prospect of a return to the Liberty increased there were no shortage of dissenting voices confidently claiming the 28-year-old did not want to go back to South Wales, that there was no interest in linking up with his brother Jordan.

Once the deal was done Carlos Carvalhal made clear the club-record transfer would not have been completed had there been any suggestion Ayew was not ready to give his best for Swansea.

In fact, the Portuguese outlined how keen the player had been to pull on a white shirt again after an injury-ravaged spell at West Ham, saying there would have been no point in sealing a transfer for such a significant outlay had the case been otherwise.

Such thinking was the very reason Kevin Gameiro and Nicolas Gaitan did not end up in Swansea shirts.

It would not be unfair to say there was an impression Ayew's initial stint in Swansea was one the player viewed as a stepping stone in the Premier League, and he did not always seem entirely settled at the club despite his 12-goal haul.


But, as with his first stint, he has hit the ground running second time around. He was superb in the 4-1 win against his former club, clearly playing with a point to prove to old employers, and he did his part in the win over Burnley and the battling draw at Huddersfield.

With his brother suspended he was asked to lead the line against Jose Mourinho's men, a testing assignment and one which promised to offer little tangible reward against a pacy, powerful home side who had lost just once at the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League all season.

If there were any question of how much Ayew wanted to be at Swansea, and how much he was prepared to give, this was an afternoon that would test the January conspiracy theorists and the responsibility the £18million man was ready to assume.

It was not a great afternoon for Swansea, despite a second-half improvement, but there could be no questioning the application and effort of the former Marseille man.

Work-rate

It will surely come as no surprise to any fans who were in the away end that Ayew was among Swansea's top performers in terms of ground covered, and it was not just about his pressing from the front but his ability to read the game and plug gaps when required.

For example, when Sam Clucas was dispossessed after making a diagonal forward run from left to right, it was Ayew who spotted his colleague struggling to get back and dropped himself onto the left flank to fill the gap, gesturing to the midfielder to take his place up top for that short passage of play.

Swansea were far too respectful of their high-profile opponents, particularly midfielders Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba, but Ayew was not afraid to get amongst them and a centre-half pairing of Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof that was not always convincing.

The Swansea forward twice picked off loose passes from the England international to give his side some rare attacking footholds, although he often lacked the support to make the most of his industry.

He would have profited further from his industry had referee Bobby Madley not mystifyingly chose to ignore Smalling's stretching contact with Ayew's foot as he threatened to move forward.

In total he dispossessed his opponents three times, more than any other player on the pitch for either side, also making three additional successful tackles and winning an aerial duel.

Use of the ball

With the introductions of Tammy Abraham and Tom Carroll at the break, Ayew finally found himself with some genuine options in advanced areas, giving him more chance to contribute in an offensive sense in a deeper role.
Interestingly, despite often being starved of team-mates to link with for long periods, Ayew was intelligent and accurate in his use of the ball when it came his way.

His pass completion rate was 83 per cent, the highest figure of any Swansea player who was on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, with the exception of Alfie Mawson.

It was also a better completion rate than either Romelu Lukaku or Alexis Sanchez, although granted the United pair had far opportunity to use the ball and take more risks.

Add in some intelligent link play, including one lovely half-turn and backheel to bamboozle a pair of red shirts and find Carroll in space, and there could be little doubt Ayew was among the better Swansea performers on a challenging afternoon when fellow January arrival Andy King also showed up well and Martin Olsson found form to match his showings of 12 months ago.

One in the eye for the doubters

Of course it’s worth pointing out that as the club-record signing, Ayew has plenty of individual reasons - as well as collective - to ensure Swansea remain in the Premier League.

He is also a man who would surely get a top-flight move - either in the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe - were Swansea to be relegated, but the desire to make this move a success and to ensure the club have an eighth season at the elite level to look forward to.

And while this was not a match-winning display or as eye-catching as his wonderful showing against West Ham, it should have served as an afternoon to quieten any of those who may have questioned his signing in January.

Here, as with his previous outings since returning, there was absolutely nothing wrong with his attitude and application. It was certainly not the performance of a man who was said not to want to come back to Swansea.

It was a showing that highlighted how important he can be over these closing weeks, as a senior figure in the dressing room he is setting a good on-field example. Hopefully there is plenty more to come.