Manchester United have made a fine start to the new Premier League season, with summer signing Romelu Lukaku netting a brace in a 4-0 victory at home to West Ham United. The Belgian netted either side of halftime on his league debut, before Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba finished things off in the dying minutes. It was a strong performance from José Mourinho’s men — let’s hope it sets the tone for a successful campaign.
The game got off to a lively start, the ball bouncing off both teams as technique took a backseat to the classic Premier League swashbuckle. Gradually, however, United began to take control, and only the timely intervention of two Hammers defenders prevented Lukaku from opening the scoring after a quarter-of-an-hour. A few minutes later Pogba picked out Juan Mata with a glorious chip, though the Spaniard opted to pass rather than shoot, and allowed Angelo Ogbonna to clear the ball to safety.
West Ham, spearheaded by former United striker Javier Hernández, remained a threat on the counter-attack, but a swift United break just past the half hour proved their undoing. The impressive Nemanja Matić nicked the ball in midfield, freeing up Marcus Rashford to surge down the left. His pass was weighted perfectly for the onrushing Lukaku, whose low shot kissed the post on its way beyond Joe Hart.
West Ham had no immediate reply, but with United’s lead at the halftime whistle so slender, patience was a commodity the visitors could afford. But not for long. Within seven minutes of the restart United were two up, Lukaku doubling his tally in embarrassingly simplistic fashion. The Belgian escaped his marker en route to a floated Henrikh Mkhitaryan free-kick, with Hart powerless to prevent the bullet header rippling the net.
From then on, it was one-way traffic: United were unwilling to show mercy, and chased a third with as much vigour as they had the opener. A brilliant curling Rashford effort almost iced the cake, though curled against the woodwork and agonisingly across the face of goal. An equally spectacular effort came from Daley Blind on the volley with 20 minutes left, though his effort narrowly cleared the crossbar.
It took a long time coming, but come the third goal eventually did. Some smart one-touch passing culminated in Mkhitaryan threading through for substitute Martial, who made no mistake from inside the area.
It turns out that goals are a lot like London buses, and the second pulled up moments later. Martial turned provider with a simple through ball, though really it was Pogba that did all the work. He took receipt of his compatriot’s pass, before charging towards goal and lashing a vicious shot beyond the keeper. It was an emphatic finish, encapsulating an equally emphatic victory.
The final whistle sounded with United having beaten a very solid mid-table side handsomely, and with both big summer signings having turned in exemplary performances. Mourinho will surely have been very content with the afternoon’s work.