Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 August 2020

Manchester United enjoy dream start as Frank Lampard and Chelsea face 'reality check'

A 4-0 win at Old Trafford was a statement of intent from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, while the visitors face up to the challenge ahead

A Chelsea manager began his reign with a win against Manchester United. But not Frank Lampard, and not on Sunday. Lampard played in Jose Mourinho’s 2004 victory. A decade-and-a-half later, an era started in altogether less auspicious fashion.

United forwards past and present could savour a 4-0 triumph. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactics worked. “Second half was outstanding,” he said. “We defended well in a shape and counter-attacked.”

Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and the debutant Daniel James shared the goals, exposing Chelsea’s defensive frailties and suggesting that, if it becomes a shootout between these teams for a top-four finish, United are red-hot favourites.

Their wretched end to last season, consisting of eight defeats in 12 games, did not carry over into the new campaign. Instead, a remodelled defence, where Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka enjoyed excellent first appearances, kept a clean sheet and in midfield a re-energised Paul Pogba showed first his passing and then his pace to set up two goals.

This ranked as a dream start. It also felt something of a symbolic one, with United featuring five academy products and only two Mourinho signings. A team who mustered a mere three home league goals against top-six opponents last season topped that tally in one afternoon. For the first time in 54 years, they beat Chelsea by four goals in the league.

“A reality check for us all,” Lampard said. “We are Chelsea and we don’t want to lose anywhere 4-0. We need to analyse the bad bits and correct them. There were four mistakes for the goals.”

And yet he was entitled to say: “At 1-0 up we were the better team.” It could have been different, with Tammy Abraham, proof of Lampard’s faith in youth, hitting the post in the fourth minute, and Emerson Palmieri later striking the woodwork. “Two off the post, you can count yourself a little bit lucky to go in 1-0 up,” Solskjaer admitted.

Perhaps Chelsea paid an early penalty for David Luiz’s departure; certainly they suffered without the injured Antonio Rudiger. Kurt Zouma cut a nervous figure on his return to the team, following a season at Everton, and capped an error-prone start by tugging back Rashford. The forward looked altogether calmer as he dispatched the spot kick over Kepa Arrizabalaga for his first United goal since March.

“They were more clinical,” Lampard said. Chelsea had 18 shots, and David de Gea made several saves, but United allied solidity with a finishing touch. Two goals in three minutes showed Solskjaer’s gameplan being executed perfectly as United broke brilliantly. “This is a counter-attacking team, it is a big strength of theirs,” Lampard said.

United’s second goal represented a fine moment for the world’s most expensive defender. The £80 million (Dh354m) man Maguire won the ball on the edge of his own box, Rashford sped away and when Andreas Pereira crossed, Martial got ahead of Andreas Christensen to apply the finish. After Romelu Lukaku’s sale, Martial has been reinstalled in the No 9 shirt and Solskjaer said: “That is a No 9’s goal.”

He was similarly pleased with another attacker. “Marcus Rashford played that left-hand side striker role more or less to perfection today,” Solskjaer said. “His second goal was absolutely outstanding.”

It was taken with class after Pogba supplied a wonderful pass. Then the midfielder put his summer flirtation with Real Madrid behind him to power forward and set up James. The fact his goal deflected in off Emerson did not detract from it.

The substitute had only been on the pitch for seven minutes and the signing from Swansea City marked his first United goal by pointing to the sky, commemorating his late father.

Updated: August 11, 2019 10:32 PM

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