Manchester United kicked off their Premier League campaign in style as they thrashed West Ham 4-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday

Jose Mourinho’s second season in charge of Manchester United began on a promising note as his side handed an embarrassing 4-0 loss to West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday, in what was a clear statement of intent from the Red Devils.

The hosts slowly found their feet as the game progressed carving out half chances for their players to convert from. But, there was no turning back once the deadlock was broken, just beyond the half hour mark as Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring on his Premier League debut for Manchester United.

Having broken his Premier League duck for his new club, the Belgian powerhouse took no time to double his and Manchester United’s tally, just minutes into the second half. Beyond that point, there was no stopping Mourinho’s men, who created chance after clear cut chance to grab the third goal.

And the third goal came through Anthony Martial, who collected a defence-splitting pass from Henrikh Mkhitaryan to calmly slot the ball past Joe Hart. The win was subsequently rounded off in the 90th minute, as Paul Pogba curled a long-range shot past the English shot stopper.

That fourth goal sent Manchester United to the top of the table, and while its still early days, Mourinho’s men hold the early advantage in the season. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at some of the major talking points that emerged from the match.

Red Rom Mania: A Sign of Things To Come?

Romelu Lukaku’s arrival at Manchester United was greeted with a mixed bag of optimism and skepticism. While several pointed to his record in the Premier League over the years, there were a few who raised their eyebrows at the money that was shelled out to secure his services.

The Belgian’s preparation heading into the 2017/18 was nothing short of impressive though, as he took no time to gel in with his new teammates. With three goals in pre-season friendlies in addition to another against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, the player has been in some mood to prove his doubters wrong.

And Lukaku couldn’t have hoped for a better Premier League debut as he grabbed a match-winning brace to help Manchester United to a comfortable four-goal win. But his performance was not just about the two goals.

He was full of confidence ever since Martin Atkinson blew his whistle for kickoff till it was blown for the final time at full-time, with lung bursting runs, powerful shooting, niggling challenges and understanding with teammates.

The early signs, therefore, point towards Manchester United landing a top class replacement for last season’s talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And should he continue in a similar vein of form for large parts of the season, the talks of the transfer fee will be history.

Nemanja, Woah!

Two months without action, one game and less than a week of training in pre-season. One would think that with such lax preparations, however forced they were, ahead of the new season are hardly the ideal way to establish one as a key figure for their new club.

But, Nemanja Matic has shown little signs of rustiness in his first three games for Manchester United so far. And it was his performance against West Ham, in particular, that went on to show just why Jose Mourinho has chosen to impose his faith in the player at two different clubs in the last three years.

A complete no-nonsense performance on the day, the Serb won the ball with ease for large parts of the match, blocking out the danger for his defenders. At the same time, he was clear with his decision making on the ball, spraying passes – both short and long – to dictate the pace of the match effortlessly.

On top of all that, Matic’s runs off the ball were clever, creating spaces for his teammates to exploit, with the biggest example of this being Lukaku’s first goal. A complete performance on debut for the Red Devils, making the Serbia international a vital cog in Mourinho’s side.

All Round Dominance: Is It The Return Of Manchester United of Old?

Speaking of Matic’s influence to Manchester United, and it was largely his presence that enabled the hosts to dominate all around the pitch for the length of the match. With Matic providing the shield to his defence, the full-backs, Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind, had the license to burst forward.

More importantly, Matic’s presence at the centre of the park means that the shackles are off the attackers when the Serb is on song, with acres of space to exploit and create clear cut goalscoring opportunities for Lukaku.

The player who is likely to thrive in this new setup, meanwhile, is Paul Pogba – the player around whom Mourinho seems to be building his side. The Frenchman’s unwillingness to contribute in defence was starkly apparent last season, leaving Manchester United vulnerable on the break.

On top of that, this often left the player restrained going forward as well. The addition of Matic, though, looks like the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle that could help Manchester United dominate games like they did during the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson.

If these are the sign of things to come, Manchester United will well and truly be a force to be reckoned with over the course of the season. And considering Jose Mourinho’s perfect second season record, the Premier League title could finally be coming back to Old Trafford in nine months’ time.

West Ham Cannot Afford To Sell Lanzini

While it is true that Manchester United played some of the most scintillating football in recent years, one just cannot refute the fact that West Ham were absolutely toothless in attack, with a dreadful lack of creativity keeping them from having much of a sniff at the hosts’ goal.

Slaven Bilic does have a wealth of quality attacking options at his disposal this season, with the likes of Javier Hernandez, Marko Arnautovic, Andre Ayew, Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll having a more than just a decent track record in their respective careers.

But, none of these players have the ability to split through the defensive lines and create chances out of nowhere. That glue that binds it all together for Bilic’s attacking unit is Manuel Lanzini. The Argentine was missing on Sunday with injury, but more worrying for the West Ham boss would be his exit links.

Lanzini is heavily being rumoured to be the replacement for Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool. But Bilic can ill afford to let his star man leave this summer. With a visionary eye for a pass alongside his abilities on the dead ball, Lanzini’s presence could be the difference between European qualification and another bottom half finish.

Chicharito: A Crucial Figure For The Hammers This Season

Ahead of the meeting between the two sides, a lot of the pre-match talks centred around the return of Javier Hernandez, not just to the Premier League but to Old Trafford, albeit as a visitor. And like Lanzini, the Mexican striker’s performances will be crucial for the Hammers this season.

One of the deadliest finishers the English game has witnessed in recent years, Chicharito can be an inspiring addition in Bilic’s squad. The Mexico international, though, will need better support from the players behind him than Sunday as he was often forced to drift in deep instead of bombing into the box where he flourishes.

This is another reason why Lanzini’s retention is vital for West Ham and Bilic as the Argentine is the only player in his squad who can lay in the balls for Hernandez to capitalise on. Nevertheless, should he be supplied with better scoring opportunities, the Hammers would have had a prolific force in their ranks.

Leave A Comment...