Dubai: Manchester United celebrated like they had won the Premier League title as they trounced Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday evening, but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was quick to keep them grounded, saying this team is very much a “work in progress”.
How right he is.
It looked like men against boys in the final match of the opening weekend of the campaign, but it was simply boys against very poor boys as United stunned Chelsea on Frank Lampard’s competitive debut as manager.
Solskjaer fielded the most youthful side of any team over the weekend against the young pups from Stamford Bridge — a club hamstrung by the departure of key playmaker Eden Hazard and a transfer embargo, forcing their rookie boss to blood the youngsters such as Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham.
The Churchillian rally call before the whistle from Lampard only rang in the ears for the first 10 minutes of the match before the reality of a long day at the office set in.
He [Mourinho] didn’t like the performance of Mason Mount? Did he say Mason Mount? Well I can’t drag people out of the medical room to play.
Chelsea had two golden and ultimately spurned chances before committing defensive suicide that tragically exposed their frailties and manpower-shortcomings against a very average United side, who would not have had such a fun day against a more experienced opponent.
Marcus Rashford scored twice, Anthony Martial got off the mark too, while Daniel James netted on his debut as United fans partied like it was the good old days.
Abraham and Emerson both hit the woodwork for the visitors and had they taken even one of their early chances the scoreline would have looked very different.
That said, Solskjaer’s men did their job against their mediocre opponents, who folded like a well-used accordion once they knew the game was up.
The Red Devils were dancing as they enjoyed their best win over the Blues at Old Trafford in the league since 1965. The Scandinavian’s young upstarts even had the cheek to temporarily bump Liverpool down to third in the standings at the end of the opening weekend (we know United — and Chelsea — have a long fight ahead to even stay in the top six).
Jurgen Klopp’s men got the ball rolling on the new season with a win at a canter over Norwich — 4-1 on Friday night.
That was just the starter for 10 — well, nine — other matches.
Champions Manchester City trumped them with a resounding 5-0 win over West Ham United. That result could and would have been more resounding had it not been for a ridiculous decision by the VAR officials.
Both Brighton and Burnley are having early-season nosebleeds as they sit fourth and fifth, thanks to 3-0 wins over Watford and Southampton, respectively.
Tottenham Hotspur had go-to man Harry Kane to thank for turning a potential humiliation from Aston Villa into an attractive 3-1 victory, while dark horses Arsenal scraped a win over relegation-fodder Newcastle United.
It is early days, and Burnley and Brighton will soon find themselves back in the basement of the league, fighting for top-flight survival.
City are sitting pretty at the top, ahead of United and Liverpool on goal-difference. Spurs and Arsenal also have three points in the bag.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are in 19th position, only ahead of fellow Londoners West Ham. Prodigal son Lampard has a lot of work to do or, despite the limits on his squad, may find himself out of work altogether.
As weird as it sounds after a 4-0 triumph, Solskjaer’s boys up in Manchester also need to improve or he will simply be steamrolled out of a job.
So VAR, so good, bad and ugly
We saw the good, the bad and the ugly side of VAR as it was finally introduced to the Premier League.
Friday night’s opener saw a seamless curtain-raiser as Liverpool cruised to a 4-1 win over Norwich, where referee Michael Oliver controlled the game with authority and rarely had to go to his video-assisted henchmen, despite a technical failure that delayed the start of the second half of the match.
Saturday saw a shambles as Manchester City’s 5-0 win over West Ham was marred by a multitude of referrals to the TV-watchers upstairs by Mike Dean, at least three of which were unnecessary and two were clearly ruled the wrong way.
If this is used as the marker, the new system is failing already as there are rules in place to give the attacking team the benefit of the doubt. VAR is meant to eradicate any questions and stop players getting in the referee’s face. Sadly, it seems to be creating more problems, more debates and it is already ruining the flow of the game.
I feel sorry for the players, the refs and the fans.
Played W D L GF GA Pts
Man City 1 1 0 0 5 0 3
Man United 1 1 0 0 4 0 3
Liverpool 1 1 0 0 4 1 3
Brighton 1 1 0 0 3 0 3
Burnley 1 1 0 0 3 0 3
Tottenham 1 1 0 0 3 1 3
Arsenal 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Sheffield United 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Bournemouth 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Leicester 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Everton 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Wolverhampton 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Crystal Palace 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Newcastle 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
Aston Villa 1 0 0 1 1 3 0
Norwich 1 0 0 1 1 4 0
Watford 1 0 0 1 0 3 0
Southampton 1 0 0 1 0 3 0
Chelsea 1 0 0 1 0 4 0
West Ham 1 0 0 1 0 5 0