Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring his second goal (Photo: AFP)
Romelu Lukaku picked up where he left off last season, scoring a brace on his league debut for Manchester United against West Ham United in their opener to give the Red Devils a commanding 4-0 win at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The 24-year-old Belgian, signed in the summer from Everton for £75 million, had been bright in pre-season but to hit the ground running when the regular season is another thing altogether and the burly striker did it with ease against a sub-par West Ham side.
There were plenty of debuts on either side for the final Premier League fixture of the opening weekend, with United new boy Nemanja Matic starting alongside Paul Pogba in midfield.
The Hammers, out to correct a poor away record against the Red Devils, gave debuts to Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Marko Arnaoutovic and Javier Hernandez aka Chicharito.
The atmosphere at Old Trafford was a little subdued initially, for the first half-hour their team dominated possession but had very little to show for it and fans feared a repeat from last season was on the cards.
The mood lifted substantially three minutes later when Lukaku finished off a breathtaking counter-attack in style.
Matic, signed to be the shield in midfield, broke up an attack and immediately played the ball to Marcus Rashford. The young English striker ran towards the West Ham goal and seeing Lukaku make a run, slipped his teammate in. Lukaku swivelled and sent in a powerful low finish past Hart to give United the vital breakthrough.
The Hammers, who hadn’t done much offensively to threaten David de Gea’s goal, had one clear-cut chance after a well-worked move but Edmilson Fernandes could only shoot straight at the Spaniard and the teams went into the dressing rooms with the hosts holding a slender lead.
Too often, last season had United guilty of trying to defend a slim lead but any such thoughts were quelled as the Red Devils continued to press for a second goal after the break.
And the second came soon, crucially. Rashford was brought down by Zabaleta on the edge of the box and Mkhtiaryan floated in the ensuing free-kick for Lukaku to head home in the 52nd minute.
The result was effectively put to bed with the Belgian’s second and while the Hammers tried to fashion some chances, even hitting the post a minute before the hour-mark, the United backline held them at bay without much of an effort.
3 – Romelu Lukaku has now scored on his Premier League debut for three different clubs (West Brom, Everton and @ManUtd). Introduction.
Credit to the midfield duo of Pogba and Matic, who ran the show for the hosts and while the entire unit tried to get Lukaku a hat-trick, it was not to be.
Goals would come, but from Anthony Martial and Pogba.
Mkhitaryan, excellent all evening, played Martial in the third in the 87th minute and Martial’s compatriot Pogba got another three minutes later after the visitors defence backed off and allowed him time and space to shoot from the edge of the box.
On an opening weekend where most of their direct rivals struggled, the fact that the Red Devils seem to be in cruise control from day one will be a worrying sign for the rest.
United next play Swansea City away, a game they will be expected to win but Jose Mourinho is not likely to leave it to chance as he seeks to bring a 21st league title to Old Trafford.