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Manchester United in the limelight

By Aldrine Nsubuga

Added 17th August 2019 04:07 PM

The high score lines notwithstanding, it was the brutal manner in which Liverpool, City, United all won.

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The high score lines notwithstanding, it was the brutal manner in which Liverpool, City, United all won.

Liverpool blitzed passed Norwich, Manchester City waltzed passed Aston Villa and Chelsea were flummoxed by Manchester United on the opening weekend of the new 2019-20 Premier League season.
 
The high score lines notwithstanding, it was the brutal manner in which Liverpool, City, United all won, that left reverberations across England. It was resoundingly angry, hungry and savage. At times.
 
Norwich exhibited bravery with their pretty patterns, cheeky skills, and fancy style but Liverpool was intent only in the outcome. They delivered it in a breathtaking first 45 minutes.
 
Divock Origi, Mohamed Salah, and Virgil van Dijk weighed in but goalkeeper Allison weighed out on the other end. An innocuous ball clearance led to an injury which left him and everyone baffled. It was the first match of the new season and the whole of England was watching. They were waiting for a statement from Liverpool. It was emphatic.
 
The Merseyside club is resolute in maintaining their position as front runners to City’s challenge even this season and Norwich was the laboratory. Challenge accepted.
 
The champions traveled to Upton Park and ran riot. If Liverpool had put four past Norwich, they would aim for five against West Ham to keep the discussion into perspective.
 
Raheem Sterling –PFA young player of the year – fired in a hat trick, as Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero aggregated the score. Algeria captain and newly crowned African champion Riyad Mahrez; rarely a starter last season, also showed that he is now ready to claim a permanent berth in the starting line up. He was a beacon throughout and provided two assists.
 
Once City engaged all gears in the second half, the Hammers didn’t have a prayer. Pep Guardiola had this weekend’s Super Saturday fixture against European cup finalists Spurs in mind, and he wanted his players to be ready mentally.
 
Mauricio Pochettino’s team accounted for City’s exit from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage last season leaving an ax to grind.
 
It’s why Guardiola wanted more than a convincing win against West Ham. He knew Spurs were watching and set about creating fear, even with his team selection. Aguero, Bernado Silva, and Ilkay Gundogan started on the bench but only to make them angry. Spurs would have seen the eagerness with which each of the City players had when they got onto the pitch.
 
A day later, United played hosts to Chelsea and the game will go down as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best tactically since he took over at Old Trafford.
 
On top of his agenda, was to show that his faith in youth for United’s future is not misplaced and his focus on fixing the leaking defence as priority was inspired. Like a student of his master Alex Ferguson, he went for patience and efficiency not fancy.
 
Harry Maguire; the world’s most expensive defender and Wan-Bissaka were the supposed answers to David de Gea’s previously frequent exposures and Solskjaer didn’t waste time unleashing them on the go.
 
On the evidence of their debut performance against a very good opponent in possession, they could be. Maguire’s class and superb game reading gave Victor Lindelof newfound freedom and ease with which to pick out dangerous attackers.
 
Calmness has been restored at the back, at least for now. With Paul Pogba deployed in a slightly deeper anchor role, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard; the three protégés operating a trinity further upfront, counter-attacking was primed to be the game plan. It worked to perfection.
 
The youngsters; Daniel James inclusive, scored the goals that crucified Chelsea legend Frank Lampard to deny him any fairytale stories for his grandchildren in years to come.
 
In truth, Lampard signature on Chelsea is already evident and in a different world, not football, one would have said, the result was harsh on his team. Their football was delightful.
 
The absence of the experienced N’golo Kante, Olivier Giroud, Marcus Alonso and Antonio Rudiger from the starting line up does not excuse Chelsea’s naivety at defending though.
 
Lampard became s legend for Chelsea during the years when the Londoners had perfected the art of defending, particularly under Jose Mourinho’s two reigns as a coach.
 
Even as recent as Italian Antonio Conte’s time, Chelsea were easily the archetype of sound defensive organization.
 
No coincidence that Conte and Mourinho won titles for them, a lesson that Lampard could benefit from absorbing.
 
The impressive debuts for youngsters Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Emerson were shadowed by the inability of the team to tactically adjust and adapt in the face of long ball bombardment.
 
At the final whistle, the team that had everyone guessing following a busy summer is the one that recorded a firm victory. It’s how they took the limelight away from City and Liverpool.

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