Manchester United lay down a marker with powerful display against West Ham
It was operation ‘Jose Mourinho season 2’ as Romelu Lukaku scored twice and Nemanja Matic demonstrated why just about everyone is questioning Chelsea for selling him.
Paul Pogba was off his leash and, despite an initial fight to do everything he can at once, he was more polished and finished the game with a nice goal to round off the 4-0 victory.
This was a message to the title-chasers, whichever way you look at it. This was the kind of match Manchester United would have drawn last season, this season they ran riot.
Lukaku was the pick of the bunch with a double to take his stunning record against West Ham to 11 in 13.
His first a wonderful finish beyond Joe Hart – the former Manchester City keeper making his debut – after Marcus Rashford’s surging run from the halfway line.
His second a header inside the six yard box from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross.
Both goals demonstrated why Mourinho spent what could be £90m on him. He scores goals in different ways and gives United something they dearly missed last season.
And ominously he said it was just the start.
“The fans want to see attractive football and we have to stick to that,” he declared in the aftermath.
“They will be pleased today. It is just the start, we need to keep working to the manager’s plan.”
Mourinho has built up his persona over the summer to dismiss any doubts there may have been in their relationship after the Chelsea saga.
“When you play for Manchester United, you have a job to do and mine is to score goals. It is promising,” Lukaku added.
“The manager wants me to be a leader for the team and create as much as I can. We work hard in training and it is paying off.”
And Mourinho also thinks there is more to come. He was pleased with the performance but thinks they can add more spark when they play with the confidence they showed later on.
“We did not start especially well, we looked nervous but then we put in a quality performance.
“A word that I like is confidence, they played with confidence and played football. It was a very positive performance.”
After Lukaku’s demolition job it was the turn of substitute Anthony Martial and then Pogba to add the gloss to the result to make it 4-0.
United’s official twitter account tweeted ‘Top of the league’ with a wink emoji.
And while that may seem facetious after just one game, this was a message-sending game.
It remains to be seen if United can match this level – or even surpass it – each week but the fans will have enjoyed the start to life in Mourinho’s second season.
Robbie Savage spoke of excitement on BBC radio.
He said: “The big word this season used at United is excitement and there was plenty of that today.
“United have put a marker down and for me they are the title favourites, and there is no reason for me to change my mind.”
And Gary Neville thinks United have done some great business in the transfer window and looked ‘powerful’ although refused to get ahead of himself.
“You’ve got to keep it in respect of this game, it’s game one,” Neville said on Sky Sports.
“But it looks a powerful, strong team, that has got goals in it.
“That’s the main thing and he (Mourinho) will be happy.
“In his programme notes he said it was his best bunch of players in terms of spirit that he’s seen.
“Maybe all managers say that but Lukaku and Matic do look like fantastic signings.”