The Premier League season officially began on Friday but Manchester United supporters the world over had to impatiently wait until late Sunday afternoon to watch the Red Devil’s first league outing, a home encounter against West Ham United.
There was a buzz at Old Trafford. New boy Victor Lindelof was left out of the matchday squad completely but fellow summer signings Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku were handed their first league starts in a United shirt.
It was an uncertain first ten minutes for both teams. United struggled to get a hold of possession but West Ham did nothing with what they had. The only chance in the first ten fell to the Hammers when Valencia let them in behind as he was protesting a free-kick decision. The next ten minutes was more of the same but United were starting to enjoy more of the ball and looked to be settling in nicely. United fans were on their feet as Mkhitaryan found Juan Mata who then found Lukaku but a cluster of West Ham bodies prevented him from getting a shot at goal.
On 26 minutes Paul Pogba produced a lovely dink for Juan Mata, the Spaniard tried to play in Lukaku instead of having a shot but West Ham again had a body near the goal line. United were clearly in the ascendancy and possession stats favoured Mourinho’s men. The moment United fans were hoping for came in the 33rd minutes, Nemanja Matic won the ball in midfield before Marcus Rashford picked it up and burst toward West Hams retreating defence. The youngster slipped the ball through to Romelu Lukaku and the new no. 9 made no mistake. 1 – 0 to United!
United were now clearly dominant. The Hammers attempt at playing football was futile, Arthur Masuaku was their best player, showcasing some good close control and dribbling but never a good final pass. West Ham did however let go of a good chance to equalize before half-time, Javier Hernandez led a slick passing move but the resulting shot was straight at David De Gea. United led at the halfway interval.
The second half was more of the same. Some early set-pieces for West Ham produced nothing and United once again had them on the backfoot when Pogba released Rashford on 49 minutes, Joe Hart was determined to keep the youngster out though. Two minutes later the youngster won a free-kick on the edge of the box. Henrikh Mkhitaryan delivered a typically beautiful ball into the box and Romelu Lukaku headed in to score his second of the game, he was dreaming of a debut hat-trick.
The Hammers best chance fell to Marko Arnautovic, the Austrian’s header had David De Gea scrambling but the crossbar helped the Spanish shot stopper keep his clean sheet. Slaven Bilic tried to inject some energy into the time, bringing on Rice and Sakho for Noble and Fernandes. United were now creating chance after chance. Lukaku and Rashford both had sights of goal. Mkhitaryan was next to try his luck but Joe Hart managed to save the shot after a tricky run by the Armenian.
Rashford was proving to be a headache for Pablo Zabaleta, the youngsters footwark created some space before he sent a missile toward goal that hit the upright, Joe Hart was planted in his spot.
Marouane Fellaini came on for Juan Mata. West Ham enjoyed a little spell of possession but it just wasn’t happening for Bilic’s team, Masuaku crossed for Arnautovic but the frustrated summer signing blasted over De Gea’s posts. Anthony Martial came on for Rashford and immediately picked up where he left off, running at Zabaleta and playing the ball through to Lukaku who couldn’t white reach it. The Belgian looked offside.
On 87 minutes United produced another silky passage of play. Pogba found Mkhitaryan and the Armenian magician slipped it through to Martial who controlled the ball well and fired past Joe Hart. 3 – 0 to United.
Lingard replaced Mkhitaryan in the 88th minute. The game was now a foregone conclusion but United were not done. Martial played Paul Pogba through and the midfielder curled the ball around the keeper from outside the box. A goal and an assist for Martial in his fight to claim a starting berth.
Overall it was a frustrating outing for West Ham United. The Red Devils were absolutely phenomenal, Nemanja Matic sat in the heart of midfield and dictated the show from the beginning. The Serbian was deservedly crowned Man of the Match. Up front Mourinho’s men were smooth and slick and could’ve had a few more goals. At the end it was a 4 – 0 triumph for the Red Devils and debut delight for Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku.