Manchester City kicked off their 2019/20 campaign in familiar fashion with a 5-0 rout of West Ham at the London Stadium.
Pep Guardiola decided to go with David Silva ahead of birthday boy Bernardo Silva in midfield and opted against starting Sergio Aguero, who has just returned from injury.
The nuances in the line-up were inconsequential as the defending champions made light work of the Hammers and cruised to a 5-0 win.
Raheem Sterling walked away with the match-ball thanks to a second-half hat-trick, while Gabriel Jesus and substitute Aguero also netted.
We take a look at some of the talking points from what was an extraordinary display.
GUARDIOLA SPOILED FOR CHOICE
Guardiola enjoyed the liberty of leaving one of Europe’s best players from last season on the bench as his side crushed West Ham by five goals, away from home. City legend and star striker Aguero was also missing from the starting line-up but Gabriel Jesus ensured the Argentine was not missed.
Joao Cancelo was bound to be a straightforward choice at the right-back position, given Kyle Walker experienced a noticeable dip in form towards the end of last season. But the Englishman produced a splendid display in attack to send a message that the new-signing will have to work for his spot. This healthy competition will drive both the players to strive for new heights this season.
Riyad Mahrez’s sensational performance assured City that Leroy Sane’s injury is unlikely to cause too much harm to their chances in the league. Guardiola is spoiled for choices and it will take something monumental to dethrone this side.
PROMISE FOR THE HAMMERS
New-signing Sebastein Haller proved to be a menace by keeping John Stones on his toes at all times. The former Eintracht Frankfurt forward took very little time to gel into his new side and showed promise in constructing the play. His sturdy physique provided him a huge advantage in a physical duel and this can come handy in the Premier League.
Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio were dangerous on the counter and made City’s defence work hard to keep the clean-sheet.
The 5-0 score-line is a fair reflection of their defensive performance but it veils the tremendous effort up front.
Boss Manuel Pellegrini will be confident of better showings in the future once he sits back and looks at the game beyond the score-line.
VAR DEBATE IS UNDER WAY
VAR is making its Premier League debut this season and debates on whether it would kill the flow of the game were bound to pop up at some time over the course of the season. The heavy involvement of the technology in this game already had fans conflicted over their opinions of the same.
The first major involvement arrived when Sterling appeared marginally offside during a move which saw Jesus tap the ball into the goal. A very well-orchestrated move amounted to nothing as the Englishman was found to be offside by the smallest of margins.
Moments later, Sterling was yet again involved in a move which called VAR into action. Only this time the technology was on his side and he got his goal. However, it was still a case of tiny margins.
Then VAR ruled Aguero’s spot-kick, initially saved by Lukasz Fabianski, should be retaken as Declan Rice had encroached into the penalty area. The Argentinian did not make the same mistake twice.
This begged for debate whether VAR must be used only in case of obvious mistakes or whether the calls must be binary based on where the line is drawn.
Defending Champions Manchester City overcame West Ham’s first-half resistance to register a comfortable 5-0 win in their opening game of the 2019/20 Premier League season.
Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling made the score-sheet, with the latter impressing with a well-deserved second-half hat-trick.
How did the players perform in City’s opener? We take a look.
Manchester City (4-3-3)
Ederson – Hardly tested by the West Ham attack in the first half, produced a spectacular double-save in the second to keep the clean-sheet. 7
Oleksandr Zinchenko – Confident show by the youngster with some key moments in attack and in defence, linked well with the forwards. 7
John Stones – Dealt well with the threat produced by Sebastien Haller, simple game with no major errors. 6
Aymeric Laporte – Assumed the position of the last man whenever City pushed forward, dealt extremely well with all the aerial threat. 7
Kyle Walker – Could have done better in defence, but was a beast in attack. Assisted Jesus’ opener following a great overlapping run. 7
Rodrigo – Soaked the pressure incredibly well, won some crucial aerials and maintained the tempo of the game. 7
Kevin De Bruyne – Vintage display from the Beligan, produced three key-passes including the assist to Sterling that followed a brilliant run. 8
David Silva – The weakest link in the team, got caught in possession several times and was rarely on the same wavelength as his team-mates. 5
Riyad Mahrez – Looked threatening on the right and was involved in several crucial build-ups, assisted two of Sterling’s goal, won the penalty ahead of City’s fourth. 9
Gabriel Jesus – Netted the ball twice but only one counted. Produced an exquisite finish to slot it home amid a crowded area. 8
Raheem Sterling – City’s best player of the game despite staying anonymous for most parts of the first half, walked away with a hat-trick thanks to three well-taken finishes. 10
Sergio Aguero – Came on in the 69th minute to replace Jesus, scored a penalty after he was made to re-take his saved penalty. 7
Phil Foden – Came on for Silva to see the game off in the last 10 minutes. N/A
Ilkay Gundogan – Replaced De Bruyne for the last 10 minutes, nothing spectacular. N/A
Marcus Rashford has welcomed the extra responsibilty at Manchester United by admitting he has become one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s leaders.
Rashford has packed a lot in since his first-team debut at Old Trafford in 2016, making 170 United appearances and playing in two international tournaments for England.
But the 21-year-old faces his biggest season yet after the £73.75million sale of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan on Thursday confirmed his place as United’s number one striker.
“For me it’s just about becoming the guy that’s responsible and reliable,” Rashford said ahead of United’s Premier League opener against Chelsea on Sunday.
“I feel like that’s the next step for me. Everything goes in order of the way it should be done.
“I remember these similar steps when I first went into the Under-18s and it takes you a season to grow into that standard of football.
“Before you know it, you’re one of the leaders there and you take responsibility on the pitch. Now I’m in that situation for the first team.”
Rashford signed a new four-year contract in July to keep him at United until 2023.
The deal extended an association between player and club which stretches back to when Wythenshawe-born Rashford was seven years of age.
“I think it’s a very exciting moment,” Rashford said in an interview with the United Review match programme for the Chelsea game.
“For me it was just about getting the new contract out of the way and solidifying that I’m here for the club.
“It’s about getting the club back to where it belongs, what everybody knows Manchester United are.
“I give my life for the club and that’s the most important thing. For me, when you’re in a squad with a lot of young players who share the same ambition and have the same drive, I can only see us succeeding.
Pre-season ✔ Premier League 🔜 pic.twitter.com/BFKTJBp34U— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) August 3, 2019
“It might take us some time, but if we all stick to the game plan, work collectively as a team, and we’ve got a good manager who knows the club and who shares the same ambition, who knows what we can achieve?
“It’s not just me. There’s a group of young players together and we can start to become what we decide to become.
“That’s an important thing to me: that we can start to help the younger ones coming through.
“It’s all part and parcel of growing up in a United shirt. It’s just the next step.”
Rashford has scored 45 goals for United, 13 of them coming last season as Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho in December.
The Norwegian, himself a former United striker, has put his faith in Rashford to help the Red Devils improve on last season’s disappointing sixth-placed Premier League finish.
“It’s about putting those experiences together now,” said Rashford.
“That’s how you know the way forward. Right now I feel like mentally and physically I’m more prepared to do it than in the past, especially physically.
“I remember at the beginning of last season, my legs were so tight and tired.
“We hadn’t had much rest and it was tough trying to start the season off quickly.
“With the same amount of rest this year we’ve been able to schedule training, it’s been a lot more individualised and I feel a lot better for it.”
The Old Trafford opener will see Mourinho joining the Sky Sports team for the first time, with the Portuguese being a studio pundit for the clash between two of his former clubs.
“The Premier League is a special competition for me, one that takes so much hard work to win and you just can’t take your eyes off the matches every week,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“football is a huge passion, it means so much to the fans, and I look forward to being part of the Premier League with them until I return to my place on the touchline.”
Provided by Press Association Sports