In 2012, Swansea City unveiled a mysterious gem in the shape of Michu. The Spanish forward surged to fame in England by scoring 22 goals during his debut campaign but slumped into an undefeatable decline.
Danny Graham had been spearheading The Swans’ attack under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers, but incoming manager Michael Laudrup opted to inject a touch of Spanish panache into the squad. Michu had been plying his trade in the depths of mediocrity with hometown club Oviedo and later with Celta Vigo.
He first ascended into the spotlight with Raya Vallecano and made an instantaneous impression in the Spanish La Liga. Michu was deployed as a midfielder during his career in Spain and remarkably amassed 17 goals during the 2011/12 campaign, including scoring braces against Real Sociedad, Racing de Santander, CA Osasuna and Real Madrid respectively.
Clubs across Europe were beginning to acknowledge the Spaniard, but he was still relatively unknown to the British public when he joined Swansea City for a fee in the region of £2 million. Swansea City had lost a number of key players, and also had to move forward without Brendan Rodgers, who was appointed manager of Liverpool.
Michu was expected to fill the void left by Gylfi Sigurdsson and play as a central attacking midfielder behind Danny Graham. But Laudrup persisted with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which had been commonly used at the Liberty Stadium under Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and Rodgers, and selected Michu to lead the attack.
Swansea City had implemented an attractive possession-orientated style of play and Michu’s unflappable composure and flamboyance in the final third created a consummate target man. But what made Laudrup’s decision to oust Graham from the starting line-up even more startling was the fact that the Englishman had scored a mammoth six goals during pre-season.
His decision was justified when Swansea City stormed to a memorable 5-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road in the opening fixture of the 2012/13 campaign. The Swans were unplayable with Michu, Jonathan De Guzman, Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge fashioning a formidable quartet.
Despite presenting signs of defensive vulnerability, Swansea City packed plenty of punch on the counter-attack. Michu was the star of the shadow and inspired his team to victory with the opening two goals of the afternoon.
The Season of Dreams
It took him just eight minutes to open his Premier League account when his tame effort from range trickled beyond Robert Green. His second goal of the match could only be described as unstoppable! Wayne Routledge breezed beyond a number of bodies to break into a prosperous position and delicately assisted Michu to exquisitely curve the ball into the far top corner.
This marked the beginning of an extraordinary season and Michu went onto add two more goals in as many games. By December 2012, Michu had extended his league tally to eight goals, but he would soon consolidate his glowing reputation in an iconic victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The match was dwindling towards a goalless stalemate until Swansea City exploded into life with a deadly counter-press. Michu carved through the heart of the Arsenal defence with an effective piece of link up play and calmly guided an excellent finish into the far bottom corner. He capped off an unforgettable evening with his brace, after Dyer hounded Jenkinson to poke the ball into the path of the ruthless Spaniard, Michu remained as cool as ice to tuck another composed finish beyond the hapless Wojciech Szczesny.
Michu had every attribute required to be a world class forward. He could score from long range, close range, with either foot and he also posed a menacing threat with his head. He continued to propel The Swans to new heights, scoring a brace against Norwich City and an equalizer against Manchester United to extend his tally to 13 league goals before the turn of the year.
Swansea City had also been forming a promising run in the League Cup, after eliminating Barnsley, Crawley Town, Liverpool and Middlesbrough on route to the semi-final. They headed into the semi-final tie against Chelsea as underdogs, but Michu quickly turned the tie on its head with the opening goal at Stamford Bridge.
Danny Graham added a second goal during second half stoppage time and Swansea successfully defended their two-goal advantage to hold Chelsea to a goalless draw at the Liberty Stadium. It was a momentous occasion for the Welsh club, who were on the verge of winning the first major trophy in their history.
League Two outfit Bradford City met Swansea City in the League Cup final at Wembley Stadium in late February. The Bantams had defeated all the odds by beating the likes of Watford, Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa during the earlier rounds, but they proved no test for a ruthless Swansea City.
The Swans ended the Bradford City fairytale story with a merciless attacking masterclass. Michu scored the second goal at Wembley, but Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman stole the headlines with a brace each.
The Tragic Decline
His goalscoring record regressed towards the end of the campaign, as did Swansea City’s form in the Premier League. The Spaniard scored only three goals in his final 12 league fixtures and The Jacks recorded just two victories. However, it was a sensational campaign for both Swansea and Michu, and one that live long in the memories of everyone connected with the club.