Manchester United’s second half blitz sends Chelsea packing

Frank Lampard gets off to losing start as Martial, Rashford and James all score

Manchester United’s Anthony Martial celebrates scoring their second goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League win over Chelsea. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Manchester United 4 Chelsea 0

As opening games go, Manchester United will have to be happy with this one. They won, they kept a clean sheet and Ole Gunnar Solskjær was noisily serenaded by all four sides of the ground. Sure, there was the impertinence of José Mourinho, in his new role in the television studios, opining that Manchester City’s B team would stand a better chance of winning the Premier League. Yet this was the fifth season in a row United have won their first game of a top-flight season and the last time that happened was 1910 - the very year that Old Trafford opened for business.

Not that anyone should be getting too carried away just yet. Or, indeed, thinking that Mourinho might necessarily have been mistaken. A 4-0 winning margin does not quite tell the full story, particularly when taking into account a first half in which Chelsea’s players often gave their opponents the run-around, hitting the woodwork twice as well as creating all sorts of danger.

Ultimately, though, it turned into a chastening experience for Frank Lampard, taking charge of his first match as Chelsea manager. Marcus Rashford, in particular, profited from the shortcomings of the away side, opening the scoring with a first-half penalty and then racing away to put in the third goal barely a minute after Anthony Martial had doubled United lead. Lampard had to endure the now-familiar ‘sacked in the morning’ chant after Daniel James confirmed United’s second-half superiority with a debut goal eight minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma brings down Rashford to concede a penalty. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Yet the more pertinent song, perhaps, came a few minutes earlier when the Stretford End made it clear what they thought of Graeme Souness, the long-term critic of Paul Pogba. Pogba had just supplied the best pass of the match to dissect the entire Chelsea defence, resulting in Rashford slipping the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga to make it 3-0. Pogba also supplied the decisive pass for James to score with a deflected shot and, on this evidence, maybe even Souness might be forced to concede the French World Cup winner brings more good than bad to this club. Pogba was the last player to leave the pitch, lingering to applaud the section of the Stretford End where he has not always been applauded so warmly. It felt like a man who wanted to repair some of the damage from a summer in which he openly stated he wanted to find another club.

That second half was a strange capitulation on Chelsea’s part because the paradox of this game is that for long spells they passed the ball with more authority. They certainly had the better of the opening 45 minutes but still found themselves behind after Kurt Zouma brought down Rashford just inside the penalty area. It was a straightforward decision for the officials monitoring the VAR screens and, though Kepa dived the right way, Rashford’s penalty was struck with enough power to beat the goalkeeper to his right.

Until that point, Lampard must have been encouraged by the adventurous way his team had started the match. Tammy Abraham, spearheading their new-look attack, had flashed a 20-yard shot against David de Gea’s post. Mason Mount, operating in the number 10 role (albeit wearing number 19) looked determined to show he could flourish at this level, while Ross Barkley and Pedro were quick to support Abraham when the team broke forward.

United, in comparison, needed the opening goal to bring them alive and, even then, Chelsea had enough chances to feel aggrieved to be behind at half-time. Emerson, in particular, was unfortunate with a rising left-footed shot that beat De Gea but ricocheted off the crossbar. Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s saving tackle on Barkley drew an almighty cheer from the home crowd and Harry Maguire, another debutant in United back four, certainly won his fair share of headers on a day when Solskjær did not even include Chris Smalling, Phil Jones or Marcus Rojo among the home team’s substitutes. Overall, however, the opening hour was not easy whatsoever for United’s new defence and they rode their luck at times. Chelsea were just too naive, perhaps – too open, too wasteful in attack, too obliging with their marking.

Rashford puts United ahead from the spot. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Plus there is a great statistic from the Premier League era that United have never lost after having a half-time lead at Old Trafford (winning 264 times now and drawing the other 16). More and more, it also became evident how Solskjær intends to line up his attack. Here, he started with Andreas Pereira just behind Martial. However, there were times when Jesse Lingard, who started on the right, exchanged positions with Pereira whereas Martial and Rashford did the same on the left. Martial has taken on Romelu Lukaku’s number nine shirt and he certainly finished like one when Pereira swung over the cross for United’s second goal. Pereira had justified his selection. Scott McTominay did, too, alongside Pogba in midfield and Old Trafford, once again, felt like a happy place. – Guardian