Manchester United started the new season with an effortless 4 – 0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Romelu Lukaku scored two goals as he and Matic had hugely impressive debuts, whilst West Ham struggled to produce any sort of attacking threat throughout. Their misery was compounded by two late goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba.
The match started quietly, as both sets of forwards were starved of effective service, leaving Javier Hernandez and Lukaku isolated up front. Mourinho’s front four were often far too narrow, so West Ham could stay compact and snuff out any progress made towards their goal.
Nemanja Matic in particular was dominating the midfield, showing the tenacity and technical skill that compelled Jose Mourinho to spend £40 million on him. The first chance fell to Lukaku, but he mishit a ball across from Juan Mata and West Ham could clear. By initial observation this appeared to be a home display like last season for Jose Mourinho’s team, as they dominated possession but struggle to create any meaningful chances.
This changed around the 30 minute mark, when Mata was put through by a clever pass from Pogba, but he chose to pass instead of shoot and the attack prematurely ended. Then in the 33rd minute, Lukaku showed the clinical nature that was so often missing last season.
Matic retrieved the ball and set Rashford on a counter attack, before he used a reverse pass to put Lukaku through, who finished via the near post. West Ham offered virtually no attacking thrust apart from a shot by Edmilson Fernandes which David De Gea easily saved at the end of the first half.
If Manchester United had partial control over West Ham in the first half, this transformed into near total dominance in the second half. This was symbolised by the increased influence of Marcus Rashford, who tortured Zabaleta throughout but sliced a chance wide after being put through by Lukaku at the beginning of the half.
Pablo Zabaleta endured a difficult debut as his personal struggles were reflected by the rest of West Ham’s defence, who had close to no protection from their attack or midfield, especially in the second half. This culminated in United and Lukaku’s second goal in the 57th minute, when Mkhitaryan lifted in a free kick for Lukaku to head in unchallenged from his marker Masuaku. From then on United carved West Ham apart at will.
Despite United’s control over the game, West Ham’s debutant Arnautovic headed against the crossbar from a long ball forward, and Diafra Sakho mistimed a presentable header from a corner, but their attacking struggles were reflected by the inability of Hernandez to make any sort of mark on his own debut and his return to Old Trafford.
By this stage it was more about damage limitation on West Ham’s part, as Rashford was finding more and more joy on the left-hand side which subsequently resulted in a blocked shot from lukaku, and Rashford himself hit the bar when cut inside and shot from an angle. West Ham were unable to hold out any longer, as Martial and Pogba grabbed two late goals to lay some thoroughly deserved gloss on the scoreline for United.
Although we cannot predict and take too much away from just one game, the signs from United were all positive, their new signings were outstanding and they looked composed, powerful and fast – all the traits seen in Mourinho’s previous title winning teams. In sharp contrast West Ham’s new signings failed to impress, but given the quality in their squad a top – half finish is a more than realistic target.
Written by Sam Thomas.