United start strong
Manchester United made a strong start to the new Premier League campaign on Sunday, securing their biggest home win against Chelsea since 1965 with a 4-0 success.
Marcus Rashford was on the mark twice, scoring either side of a goal from Anthony Martial, who had taken on the responsibility of leading the United attack following the departure of Romelu Lukaku to Internazionale. The rout was completed by substitute Daniel James, who marked his debut with a goal that came nine minutes before the end, and that consigned Chelsea to a big defeat.
United had gone into the game as favourites with sports betting companies, but the result was harsh on the visitors, who were arguably the better team before the interval and who hit the woodwork through efforts by Emerson and Tammy Abraham. However, in the end, Chelsea fell to their worst ever loss in an opening-day fixture for 104 years, and new manager Frank Lampard is now under pressure to prove that this was a one-off, though his next fixture, the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul on Wednesday against Liverpool, is arguably even tougher than this assignment.
For United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the result was also a vindication of his decision to make the signing of former Leicester defender Harry Maguire the priority during the summer. A section of United support had clamoured for new faces in midfield and attack, but Maguire’s presence at the heart of the defence provided decisive during the first half, when his composure under pressure steered the home side through a rocky period.
With the ball at his feet, Maguire kept things simple, regularly passing the ball to midfield star Paul Pogba. However, it was his ability to spot when a defensive colleague was in trouble and provide cover that was particularly notable. It was an intervention by Maguire that helped set up the crucial second goal, on 65 minutes, when he robbed Abraham on the edge of the United area and launched an attack that ended with Martial scrambling the ball into the Chelsea net to make it 2-0.
While it is too early to draw conclusions about Chelsea’s chances this season, Lampard’s decision to allow defender David Luiz to move to Arsenal on deadline day looks a poor one, as his replacement Kurt Zouma struggled, conceding a penalty and often being caught out of position.
Words: Josh Dixon