Manchester United began their 2019/20 Premier League campaign with a convincing 4-0 thrashing of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at the Theatre of Dreams. A stunning penalty from Marcus Rashford opened the Red Devils’ scoring account this year and a memorable debut goal from summer signing Daniel James concluded the rout.
It was a lovely afternoon for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men that had the majority of supporters exclaiming that United have a serious chance at lifting the Premier League trophy in May. While we’re still beaming with delight over a fantastic opening display, let’s discuss three things we learned from United’s triumph over their Big Six foe.
Inconsistencies in the defense remain
United splashed £130 million to rejuvenate a wilted defense this summer, and it was arguably money well spent. On both their debuts, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire proved that they were worth their hefty price tags. Despite David de Gea coming to the rescue on several occasions, it was a job well done by both men and even earned Maguire his first man of the match honors as a Red Devil.
United’s defense was exposed within minutes of the opening half, however. Chelsea regularly found space on United’s left side, with Tammy Abraham nearly scoring one for the Blues in the fourth minute. As the contest continued, the new-look backline eventually found their stride that even some careless passing from Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelöf in the midfield couldn’t stifle their form.
Paul Pogba shows flashes of brilliance to make up for careless mistakes
Speaking of inconsistencies in the midfield, the Frenchman treated viewers to both the highs and lows of his presence on the pitch. In short, Pogba’s first half was dreadful. Neither he nor Scott McTominay were able to hold onto the ball and when they finally did, quickly lost it. Thankfully after the break, he reverted to the Pogba that validated his contract and delivered two wonderful assists, the first being a sensational ball to Rashford that was reminiscent of his first year back at United.
Despite his excellent second-half performance, Pogba’s future at Old Trafford remains an enigma. Following the victory, the 26-year-old responded to rumors about whether he could still orchestrate an exit from the Premier League and continue this year playing in La Liga or Serie A.
“I’m aware that things have been said. Only time will tell. There’s always that question mark,” he said.
But, the midfielder added he enjoys playing with his current mates: “I’m at Manchester. I have fun with my team-mates, I always want to win matches and I always give my best when I’m on the pitch.”
For now, fans can revel in the excellence he showed in the final 45 but remain apprehensive to whether Pogba will be in Manchester at the conclusion of the season.
Under Solskjaer, United’s counter-attacking is unparalleled
In his eight months as manager, Solskjaer has elevated and rebranded United’s counter-attack, so much so that one could argue it rivals stronger squads across the league. Before José Mourinho was sacked, United sat dead last in total fast breaks last season with three. Fast-forward to the end of the year and that same team finished with 21. Fans longed for the days under Sir Alex Ferguson when the moment a counter-attack ensued, opponents were on notice and you could likely expect a goal. Since his retirement, this strategy weakened along with other schemes that made United the most threatening side in football.
In just the first match of the year, we got to see the Norwegian’s promise to bring back those signature traits that have been missing from United’s form as of late. Even better, he has a roster that can follow through with his instruction. Such was the case with Daniel James, who showed how well he adapts to Solskjaer’s playbook in his short time in Manchester. Acquired from Swansea City, the 21-year-old’s goal came from a slick pass from Pogba during another textbook counter-attack. After missing his first shot, James quickly regrouped to fire it home in front of the Stretford End. Just how they rehearsed it during training.
After a disappointing conclusion last year, Manchester United went into Sunday with a lot more questions than answers. Not everything was solved in the first 90 minutes of the season, but enough to entertain them as favorites for a top-four finish.