Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was lifted into the seventh heavens of delight as his team blasted four goals past Frank Lampard’s sorry Chelsea.
United were worth every inch of the win but the day could have gone differently for the Red Devils who rode their luck early in the match.
Chelsea actually started the game as the brighter of the two sides with their four forwards – Pedro, Barkley, Mount and Abraham – pressing the opponents’ defence well and combining beautifully to fashion several goalscoring opportunities.
Tammy Abraham really should have scored when he found himself completely unmarked but his fierce drive came back off the woodwork despite having David De Gea beaten.
Minutes later, Emerson’s thumping volley again cannoned off the crossbar as United briefly lived on the edge. Thanks to Harry Maguire and United’s improving defence, the Red Devils weathered the early storm and by the time the attackers got into their groove and moved into second gear, Chelsea were in trouble.
The four goals scored and the clean sheet kept bear testament to how comfortable the Old Trafford giants were for the rest of the game.
So, was Romelu Lukaku missed?
Anthony Martial’s tap in and Marcus Rashford’s brace effectively ensured that the game’s review will not be about the incredible four goals Big Rom netted for Inter Milan in his debut outing in Italy. But about the amazing season that lies ahead of the duo.
The understanding between the two strikers was beautiful to behold: they swapped positions with ease, they were unpredictable with the ball at their feet and spearheaded the home side’s counter-attacks, stretching the Blues’ with their pace and directness.
Beyond his goals, Rashford looked the more likely to thrive in the absence of the departed Belgian striker. The England international appeared a bit more matured, is willing to accept responsibility – he didn’t shy away from the penalty when missing it could have immediately turned the fans against him – and is likely to score more goals with the manager ready to trust the lad with the central striker role.
Former United manager Jose Mourinho has suggested that Solskjaer’s side were able to humiliate Chelsea because the 2015 League champions left themselves open and that the Red Devils would suffer against ultra-defensive opponents should Ole continue to set-up his team without a traditional centre forward.
That argument, however, is hinged on the premise that neither Martial nor Rashford could adapt their games to fit different situations. The duo may be young but they are not dumb and under the guidance of the baby assassin himself, that aspect of their game should be improved on in no time.
Solskjaer sanctioned the sale of Lukaku because it would be a waste of talent to keep one so prolific and in-demand fifth on his striker’s list behind Martial, Rashford, Sanchez and James – who scored Man United’s fourth against Chelsea on his league debut.
— utdreport (@utdreport) August 11, 2019
Especially a striker whose style of play did not fit into the manager’s preferred system.
The season is long and the journey will have its ups and downs. Yet Ole, on the evidence of the Chelsea display, will feel silently confident that the talents at his disposal and the system he has deployed would help United achieve their goals and prove the manager’s decision to let the former Chelsea striker leave the right one.