Marcus Rashford’s double helped rampant Manchester United produced one of the best performances of recent times at Old Trafford with a 4-0 opening-day demolition of Chelsea in Frank Lampard’s first match in charge of the visitors.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s line-up had the youngest average (24 years 227 days) of any named over the course of the opening Premier League round of fixtures, and was the youngest the club had named since the final-day win over Crystal Palace in 2017.
Yet the Reds were able to start the campaign off with three precious points with a resounding win, thanks to a double by Marcus Rashford, his first from the penalty spot, and others by Anthony Martial and Daniel James, finishing off excellent breaks by the rampant Reds.
With Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka making their competitive debuts, Ole opted to field Andreas Pereira centrally behind main striker Martial, with Rashford on the left and Jesse Lingard on the right.
The visitors settled quickly and were unlucky not to be ahead within four minutes when Tammy Abraham turned to thud a loose ball against the woodwork with a truly hit strike that had David De Gea beaten. Pedro fired over seconds later but Martial should have done better at the other end, when presented with the ball by Kurt Zouma’s sloppy pass, with Kepa Arrizabalaga saving the tame effort.
Chelsea continued to threaten with a dangerous cross by Cesar Azpilicueta and a drive by Mason Mount that De Gea stopped, but the key moment of the first half arrived when referee Anthony Taylor played an advantage as Andreas was fouled in midfield, before pointing to the spot when Rashford was up-ended by Zouma inside the box. As will be the norm, the decision was checked by VAR before being confirmed, and Rashford kept his nerve to drill past Kepa, even if the keeper guessed correctly by diving to his right.
Nobody has scored more goals than the Reds’ no.10 since he made his Premier League bow since February 2016 (29), and it is great to see him off the mark for the campaign in the first match after an impressive pre-season.
The Reds visibly gained in confidence and Martial scooped over the top after Scott McTominay intercepted a Ross Barkley pass and Lingard ferried the ball on to our new no.9.
Wan-Bissaka was then called upon to show his defensive nous, making two desperate clearances when the Blues had men over in attack, while Rashford had the ball in the net but was clearly offside, even if a VAR check was still carried out, just in case, after Paul Pogba appeared to be fouled when playing the through ball.
Barkley whistled a shot wide moments later and also blasted a big chance against De Gea’s legs, following an inviting pass by Pedro. There was another escape for the hosts when Emerson rattled the frame of the goal after Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof missed a centre by Jorginho.
The Londoners started the second half boldly as well, Pedro’s shot deflecting off Luke Shaw for a corner, but Maguire looked commanding on his debut as the Reds fought hard to preserve the lead. A chance was conceded when Emerson hammered in another shot, this time beaten away by De Gea, and Lampard introduced new boy Christian Pulisic in a bid to freshen up his attacking options.
However, it was United who took a real stranglehold on the proceedings with two goals inside two minutes. Maguire defended stoutly to begin a counter-attack but Rashford looked to have over-hit his through ball to Rashford. Lingard chased it and fed Andreas, who took a touch before whipping in a glorious cross that was bundled home by Martial. The fans were still celebrating when Pogba produced a superb pass to release Rashford, who finished clinically past Kepa, in a one-on-one situation, for a third.
Although Zouma headed over the top for Chelsea, there was no containing United in this mood. James had only been on the pitch for eight minutes when he latched onto an unselfish ball by Pogba, after the Frenchman had played a fine one-two with his fellow countryman Martial, and galloped forward. James initially dummied to shoot before getting his effort away, and it deflected in off Emerson for a fourth.
Their pride dented, the Blues offered shots by Mount and the enterprising Emerson in the closing stages but substitute Mason Greenwood would have brought the house down, had Andreas Christensen not blocked his attempt from a Wan-Bissaka cross late on.
Ole’s men kept a clean sheet, for the first time in the Premier League since the goalless draw with Liverpool last term, which is something that will please the manager and new boys Wan-Bissaka and Maguire, but the attacking play, particularly in the second half, was a joy to behold. What a way to start the season!
United: De Gea (c); Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Lingard (Mata 86), Andreas (James 73), Rashford (Greenwood 86); Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Young, Tuanzebe, Matic.
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Christiansen, Zouma, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho (Kante 73); Mount, Barkley (Pulisic 58), Pedro; Abraham (Giroud 66).
Subs not used: Caballero, Alonso, Tomori, Kenedy.
Scorers: Rashford 18 (pen), 67 Martial 65, James 81.
Booked: Lingard, Lindelof | Zouma, Jorginho, Abraham, Kante.