Four-midable Manchester United sweep West Ham aside in Premier League opener
PUBLISHED: 18:08 13 August 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers felt the full force of Romelu Lukaku yet again as he scores deadly double
Manchester United 4 West bHam United 0
The Hammers kicked off the new campaign with a forlorn, four-goal defeat at Old Trafford, where a double-barrelled blast from their nemesis Romelu Lukaku and late goals from substitute Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba made it a nightmare start to the season at the so-called Theatre of Dreams.
west Ham had handed debuts to all four summer signings as on-loan Joe Hart took his place between the posts, with former Manchester City team-mate Pablo Zabaleta lining up at right-back, while record-signing Marko Arnautović slotted in just behind Javier Hernandez in the left-hand channel for a Hammers team missing the injured trio Manuel Lanzini, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Michail Antonio.
Making a return to Old Trafford, the Mexican who netted 59 times in 156 outings for United found himself going it alone up-front and maybe ‘Chicharito’ knew what lay in store for the Eastenders, with both teams preparing to kick-off the Premier League’s 25th season, the ‘Little Pea’ could be seen kneeling on the halfway line praying high into the Manchester skies
José Mourinho fielded two new faces as Nemanja Matić his £40m capture from Chelsea lined up alongside £90m Lukaku, who having scored nine times for Everton in his last 10 outings against the Hammers was the last person Slaven Bilić wanted to see.
And with just seven minutes on the clock, giving an indication of things to come, the Belgian bulldozer burst down the left before forcing the first corner of the game and then Lukaku nodded down on to the penalty-spot but no home shirts were in the vicinity to convert.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Daley Blind each blazed over with ambitious efforts and, as the Hammers battled to halt the Red tide, Pedro Obiang, Mark Noble and André Ayew each dug deep to stem the flow with juddering midfield tackles.
But with Noble flying in once too often, Mkhitaryan’s quick free-kick released Juan Mata, who was denied by the ankles of the advancing Hart and when the Spaniard returned the ball into the six-yard box, Arthur Masuaku brilliantly thwarted Lukaku.
Restricted to brief sorties upfield, West Ham were not causing David De Gea any problems but midway through the half, Hernandez did volley Noble’s clever chip back into the danger zone but neither Arnautović nor Ayew could apply the crucial stud.
As the half-hour mark neared, Pogba released Mata, who clipped the ball beyond Hart but the retreating Angelo Ogbonna cleared as Lukaku raced in for the kill.
The flying Hart then punched the ball off Lukaku’s head at the far post, a split-second before the United striker clattered into Winston Reid, who needed treatment for the flying assault.
It really was only looking a matter of time until Lukaku inflicted further damage on the West Ham rearguard and, sure enough, on 32 minutes, Obiang lost possession in midfield allowing the ball to be fed out to Marcus Rashford on the left-flank.
Instinctively, Lukaku made his rampant run behind Zabaleta, Reid and Ogbonna and, although his 12-yard shot splintered Hart’s right-hand upright, the ball simply flew across goal into the opposite corner to leave an Old Trafford crowd – post-Wayne Rooney - saluting their new scoring sensation.
In reply, Noble sent a 20-yard volley high over De Gea’s crossbar before Eric Bailly was booked for dumping Hernandez onto the Manchester turf that he used to call home and, then with referee Martin Atkinson about to blow for half-time, a free-flowing move almost saw the Hammers snatch a shock equaliser but the defiant De Gea beat out Edimilson Fernandes’ 15-yarder scorcher after Arnautovic, Ayew and Noble cleverly combined to set up the Swiss international.
Having survived that late scare, it was business as usual for United after the break as they doubled their lead within just eight minutes of the restart, when Zabaleta was yellow-carded for blocking the escaping Rashford on the right-hand edge of the Hammers area.
And the Argentinian paid a heavy price for that foul for, when Mkhitaryan floated over the consequent free-kick, that man Lukaku ghosted in front of Masuaku to nod home his second goal of the afternoon.
Yet again, West Ham almost shocked De Gea, when Masuaku floated in a left-wing cross that Arnautović headed over the Spaniard onto the top of the crossbar and, after Antonio Valencia was cautioned for a lunge on the Austrian, Bilić made a double-switch with Diafra Sakho and young Declan Rice replacing Fernandes and the dejected Noble.
Forgotten man Sakho soon sent a header just wide but this was token resistance from the Hammers as Lukaku had a shot charged down by Reid before Mkhitaryan’s mazy run was thwarted by Hart’s fine low save.
Rashford cut in from the left and unleashed a dipping 20-yarder that rebounded off the base of the far upright and back across goal, while Daley Blind sent an angled volley onto the roof of the net and Mkhitaryan had an effort ruled out for offside, too.
Maraoune Fellaini replaced Mata for the final quarter-hour, while Martial came on for Rashford and Aaron Cresswell took over from Masuaku.
But there there was to be yet more Manchester misery for West Ham in the final three minutes as Mkhitaryan invited Martial to race behind the visitors’ defence and calmly slot past the helplessly exposed Hart.
And then in the final seconds, Pogba advanced forward from midfield before letting fly with a 20-yarder that both gave United their fourth goal of the afternoon and sent Mourinho’s men to the top of the table with 37 matches left to play.
RED DEVILS: De Gea, Valencia, Blind, Bailly, Jones, Matić, Pogba, Mata (Fellaini 75), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 88), Rashford (Martial 79), Lukaku. Unused subs: Romero, Smalling, Herrera, Darmian.
HAMMERS: Hart, Zabaleta, Masuaku (Cresswell 81), Reid, Ogbonna, Noble (Rice 60), Obiang, Fernandes (Sakho 60), Ayew, Arnautović, Hernandez. Unused subs: Adrian, Fonte, Collins, Byram.
Booked: Bailly (43), Zabaleta (52), Valencia (60)
Referee: Martin Atkinson