The biggest match of the Premier League’s opening weekend saw Manchester United host Chelsea at Old Trafford. Going into the new new season, there are a lot of question marks surrounding both sides, mainly regarding the inexperience of their managers and the general lack of quality of their players. Ultimately, it was United who silenced their critics by cruising to a commanding 4-0 victory over one of their main rivals.
The first surprise of the day came before the match when the team sheets were released and it was revealed Christian Pulisic would be starting on the bench. In the early stages of the match it didn’t seem like Chelsea missed him much as The Blues dominated the early goings. But the momentum swung in favor of the hosts in the 18th minute when Marcus Rashford confidently fired United into the lead from the penalty spot after Kurt Zouma clumsily brought him down in the box. Chelsea refused to roll over however and came close to scoring on two occasions as both Emerson Palmieri and Tammy Abraham struck the woodwork of de Gea’s goal late in the first half.
Pulisic then came off the bench on the hour mark with the hopes of sparking a comeback for his side but it was United who showed they had an extra gear and put the game to bed with two quick goals from Martial and Rashford in the 65th and 67th minute. New signing Daniel James came off the bench a few minutes later and scored on his debut to cap the victory off in the 81st minute.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has made it his mission to get United back to playing the free-flowing, attacking style of football that they were once synonymous with and saw their performance as another step in the right direction.
“As we said to the boys before the game, we have found the way we want to play and a way we believe in. We took risks but that’s the way here. You have got to go for it. It’s risk and reward and today we were rewarded. Coming into half-time we were a bit lucky. They pinned us back and created chances, but we settled a few nerves. The second half was outstanding, we defended well in shape and counterattacked well”.
Meanwhile, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard had a lot fewer positives to take away from Sunday’s loss, which served as a wake-up call for the tough task ahead of him and his side.
“We made four mistakes and they put them away. It is a reality check for us all. We are Chelsea. We don’t want to come here and lose 4-0. It wasn’t a 4-0 game for long periods, but we need to accept it.”
After losing Eden Hazard and David Luiz, Chelsea are a much weaker side than they were last season when they just snuck into the top 4 and an injury to defender Antonio Rudiger certainly isn’t helping matters either. With Manchester City and Liverpool clearly the league’s best sides and Tottenham pulling away as the clear best of the rest, it will likely by a close race between United, Chelsea, and Arsenal for that 4th and final Champions League spot. United may have won the first battle, but it is a long season ahead and anything can happen in the coming 37 games.