Monday 14 August 2017

Brilliant United lay down a marker in thrilling style

United might have picked up the Europa League and League Cup during Jose's first season in charge but - despite a Zlatan-Ibrahimovic inspired swagger - the style of football proved little more than functional.

The lyric "Jose playing the way that United should" in the catchy re-wording of "I'm Into Something Good" seemed wholly at odds with the team's approach during the manager's settling-in season.

Against West Ham though, that terrace chant could not have been more appropriate. 

Those trophies papered over the cracks of a less-than-adequate sixth placed finish but everything came together here as the Reds set down a marker in swashbuckling style.

This was the biggest win of the opening Premier League weekend, our biggest margin of victory in just under three years and, more importantly, the best performance we've seen under Jose so far. 

It was an impressive statement of intent to the rest of the Premier League. 

There is a long way to go, but this felt like the United of the Sir Alex era.

This was football with power, pace, penetration and purpose - and also the perfect debut for two-goal striker Romelu Lukaku. 

The Hammers sat back in a bid to contain and frustrate us - a tactic that worked too often last season - but once the big Belgian broke the deadlock shortly after the half hour mark, there was only ever one winner.

With Lukaku's former Chelsea team-mate Nemanja Matic - alongside the equally immense Paul Pogba - pulling the strings, the pair provided the control and balance in midfield to unleash United's formidable attacking quartet. 

It is early days with the season not even a week old but, on this evidence, United look to be genuine contenders for a first league title in four years.

Lukaku opened his account on a mixed night against Madrid in the Super Cup but he impressed throughout against the Hammers with his strong running, physical presence and link-up play.

This was precisely the type of fixture in which we laboured last season - sometimes scraping a win but more often than not drawing.

Instead, here the Reds had everything: Matic and Pogba provided a formidable and mobile midfield axis while Lukaku gave the attack the mobility and movement that was missing with Ibra as spearhead last term. 

Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Armenian now having fully adapted to life in England, were all craft and creativity. 

The defence looked strong and we also have daunting strength in depth resources. 

New signing Victor Lindelof was not even in the squad, with last season's Player of the Year Ander Herrera on the bench along with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard. 

Jose playing the way that United should: this certainly was.

Message sent out, loud and clear. 

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