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Romelu Lukaku bagged a debut brace as Manchester United got their 2017-18 Premier League season up and running with a 4-0 victory against West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Anthony Martial came off the bench to grab a third for United before Paul Pogba blasted in a fourth in the 90th minute, leading the Telegraph‘s James Ducker to hint the start of a new era may be forming at the Theatre of Dreams:
James Ducker @TelegraphDucker
Best United performance under Mourinho by some distance and scratching my head to remember the last time it was swashbuckling like this
Both the Red Devils and West Ham will be on the road in Week 2 of the new season, with Mourinho’s side set to face Swansea City in south Wales while the Hammers head to Southampton.
Mourinho’s United have developed a reputation for playing a defensive game at times, lacking in attacking impetus, but the strength of their summer additions suggested early on that that’s all set to change.
Debutant Nemanja Matic started alongside Paul Pogba and immediately showcased why the club spent a reported £40 million on his signature, marshalling the midfield with aplomb as part of his new setup, per Copa90:
The ruthlessly efficient Defensive Midfield robot known as Nemanja Matić has settled in at United straight away.
1.94m of pure class.
He didn’t do so without some resistance, though, as Pedro Obiang took on the equivalent role as enforcer for the away side, albeit coming up short in most of the 50-50 exchanges that came his way.
The narrative that’s been put forth in recent weeks is that Matic’s presence will allow Pogba to push forward and express himself more, just as he did at former club Juventus.
This was demonstrated midway through the half when he clipped a delightful ball over the West Ham defence to Juan Mata, who drew praise from ESPN FC’s Rob Dawson despite seeing his pass to Lukaku cleared:
Rob Dawson @RobDawsonESPN
Brilliant from Pogba. Did Noble twice before clipping the ball over the top to Mata. Deserved a goal.
One of West Ham’s own summer arrivals, Marko Arnautovic, stood out as one of their more promising performers in the opening period, but the guests were consistently fighting upstream to sway any momentum in their favour.
Former Red Devil Javier Hernandez had a disappointing first 45 minutes on his return to Old Trafford, which contrasted with the opening display from Lukaku, who was close to seeing a few chances open up in the first half-hour.
He eventually found the metre of space he needed on 33 minutes, when Marcus Rashford’s darting run toward the Hammers defence opened up a void behind enemy lines.
The Belgian ran free and pinged a left-footed shot in off Joe Hart’s left post to maintain a dominating run of form against his east London opponents, as shown by BBC Radio 5 live Sport:
BBC 5 live Sport @5liveSport
Romelu Lukaku has now scored 10 goals in his last 11 games vs #WHUFC
There were cries for a penalty from the away supporters when Mark Noble went down under the weight of an Antonio Valencia challenge inside the box, although the Hammers were denied and went in at the break a goal down.
Mourinho’s men laboured in finding the breakthrough but showed much more initiative to land Lukaku’s second as he got on the end of a Henrikh Mkhitaryan free-kick to head past Hart with far too much ease.
The West Ham defence showed a lack of set-piece understanding, and the Belgian darted in behind to glance in his second after 52 minutes, and blogger Liam Canning noted how United now look more like a complete puzzle:
Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning
Romelu Lukaku already proving his worth to Manchester United. Fantastic in the air. They needed a clinical finisher and now have one.
United goalkeeper David De Gea had a rare bit of work to do when Arnautovic’s lobbed header attempt bamboozled the Spanish stopper, but the West Ham winger could only hit the woodwork.
Next came Rashford’s turn to raise the Old Trafford admirers to their feet, bending a long-range effort onto the inside curve of Hart’s right post, although the ricochet trickled just wide of the opposite side of goal.
Lukaku should have gone at least one better and completed his debut hat-trick but was denied by Hart, and Daley Blind also diverted an attempt just over the crossbar as United’s threats appeared all over the pitch.
Anthony Martial came on for Rashford with 10 minutes remaining, and after some debated his role in the team this season, he tucked in a smart finish one-on-one with Hart after Mkhitaryan’s pass squeezed him through on goal.
That wasn’t to be it for the relentless Red Devils, however, and FourFourTwo‘s Sam Pilger heaped praise on Martial once again for the role he played in teeing up Pogba for a superb, angled finish from range:
Sam Pilger @sampilger
In 10 minutes Anthony Martial has scored and provided an assist. He’s staying and will be vital for #MUFC this season
United will be upbeat about their chances of taking another three points from their trip to the Liberty Stadium next Saturday, having seen Swansea City struggle to create chances in a 0-0 stalemate at Southampton in their season opener.
West Ham’s trip to face the Saints at St Mary’s Stadium, on the other hand, now has more pressure attached to it as the Hammers keep up the search for their first points of the campaign.