Daniel James could not have scripted a better beginning to life as a Manchester United player after coming off the bench to complete the mauling of Chelsea.
A cloud of discontent and disillusionment made way for delight at Old Trafford as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side got the Premier League campaign off to a dream start on Sunday.
Chelsea were unfortunate not to cancel out Marcus Rashford’s penalty, but Frank Lampard’s first match at the helm would end in a 4-0 defeat after a second-half collapse.
Anthony Martial and Rashford netted in quick succession, before summer signing James came off the bench to score in the 81st minute of a dream debut.
“I don’t think you could write it, really,” the former Swansea flyer said.
“As soon as I signed here, I dreamed of something like that to happen and it did today.
“To score on my debut and to win 4-0 at Old Trafford in the first game, no, I don’t think you could (imagine that).”
James was Solskjaer’s first signing as United manager and eyebrows were raised at his place on the bench rather than the starting line-up given his fine pre-season performances.
The Wales winger would eventually be introduced as a 74th-minute substitute and wasted little time making an impression on the Old Trafford faithful.
“I think it was about being calm,” he said of his competitive debut for United.
“I came on at 3-0, which obviously dampened (the nerves) a bit.
“For me, it was just going out there and enjoying it, and obviously if I get an opportunity try and take them, and thankfully I did.”
James will never forget his United bow, but the level-headed Welshman is not getting carried away with the curtain-raising triumph as Solskjaer’s side rode their luck at times against Chelsea.
“Obviously we won 4-0 today but there’s obviously stuff we can work on and it’s going to be a tough game next week at Wolves,” he said.
“I think everyone was raring to go anyway, but we can’t get carried away.
“We’ve got a big, big test at Wolves next week and obviously they’ve shown how good they were, especially against us last season, so we’ve got to be prepared for that.”
James highlighted the high press and ball recovery as particular positives after the match, although a first Premier League clean sheet since February was also noteworthy.
Summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka impressed at right-back for and Harry Maguire looked solid just days after arriving in a world-record transfer fee for a defender.
“I think that we’ve shown that all through pre-season,” James said of the defensive solidity. “We haven’t conceded many.
“Obviously that’s a big part of going forwards, keeping them clean sheets, and we did that today.”
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Manchester United opened their Premier League campaign in style as they thrashed Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford.
Here, PA assesses the contribution of every individual from both teams:
David De Gea: A largely quiet game for the Spaniard on the day he was handed the captain’s armband. Beaten twice but spared by the woodwork. 6
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: Snuffed out Emerson’s marauding run down United’s right in the opening moments, an early example of a composed and mature performance from the £50million man. 8
Harry Maguire: In the week he became the world’s most expensive defender, the former Leicester man overcame any early rustiness to subdue Tammy Abraham. A solid start. 7
Victor Lindelof: Very early days but the Swede and Maguire look to have formed a decent understanding with each other. 7
Luke Shaw: Criticised by former United boss Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports for his positional sense during the interval, the left-back blossomed as the match wore on. 6
Scott McTominay: Turned defence into attack on a number of occasions although an untimely slip in the first half almost allowed Pedro an opening. 7
Paul Pogba: An all-action display from the Frenchman after a difficult summer. His stunning pass freed Marcus Rashford for United’s third before unselfishly teeing up Daniel James for the fourth. 8
Andreas Pereira: Whipped in a wonderful cross for United’s second in an industrious display. 7
Jesse Lingard: A couple of bustling runs apart, the England midfielder was overshadowed by others. 6
Anthony Martial: Wasteful in the early stages and occasionally sloppy in possession, the Frenchman nevertheless opened his account from close range to give United some breathing room. 7
Marcus Rashford: Two goals in front of onlooking England manager Gareth Southgate, starting off the rout with a fine finish to a penalty he earned before calmly slotting home after being put through by Pogba’s ball over the top. 8
Daniel James (on for Pereira, 74): Capped a late cameo with a debut goal, firing across Kepa Arrizabalaga after showing a great turn of pace to keep up with Pogba. 7
Juan Mata (on for Lingard, 86): No time to make an impression. 6
Mason Greenwood (on for Rashford, 86): As above. 6
Kepa Arrizabalaga: Little chance of keeping out any of United’s goals, Kepa was let down by those in front of him. 6
Cesar Azpilicueta: Got forward well but was one of a number of defenders routinely caught out of possession. 5
Andreas Christensen: Was given a tough afternoon by Rashford. 5
Kurt Zouma: A nightmare display on his Chelsea return. Fortunate a loose ball to Martial did not lead to the opener but gave away a spot-kick with an unnecessary challenge on Rashford. Nervy thereafter. 4
Emerson: Fired against the bar after ghosting into the area but not so adept at tracking back. 5
Jorginho: Had no answer to Pogba and company after the break and may be looking over his shoulder once N’Golo Kante regains full fitness. 5
Mateo Kovacic: Over-run by the United juggernaut. 5
Pedro: Willing as ever but largely on the margins. 5
Ross Barkley: Given the nod ahead of Christian Pulisic, the former Everton midfielder threatened occasionally, drawing a fine save out of De Gea before being withdrawn just before the hour. 6
Mason Mount: Was at the heart of proceedings in an encouraging opening but faded as United gathered momentum after the interval. 6
Tammy Abraham: Rattled the post as his movement troubled United but shackled by Maguire before being withdrawn at the midway point of the second half. 6
Christian Pulisic (on for Barkley, 58): The United States captain was welcomed to the Premier League with a rough challenge from Pogba. 5
Olivier Giroud (on for Abraham, 66): An anonymous display from the Frenchman. 5
N’Golo Kante (on for Jorginho, 73): Little he could do to stem the tide before being booked late on. 5
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Jose Mourinho joked that Manchester City’s substitutes might be good enough to win the Premier League title this season as he said his former clubs Manchester United and Chelsea must focus on finishing in the top four.
The Portuguese, appearing on Sky Sports before his ex-employers went head-to-head at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, was asked who can win the title this season and said: “Four, Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool and the Man City ‘B’ team.
“When I looked at the bench yesterday, the players not involved, I think even the ‘B’ team could fight for the title.”
City, 5-0 winners at West Ham on Saturday, had a substitutes bench including new signing Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Sergio Aguero – who scored after his second-half introduction.
Neither United nor Chelsea boast such strength-in-depth, with questions asked over United’s failure to sign a central midfielder or a replacement for striker Romelu Lukaku, while Chelsea were subject to a transfer ban this summer and lost Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.
Frank Lampard takes charge of Chelsea for the first time in the afternoon fixture, but Mourinho does not expect his former player to face the same pressures as several of his predecessors.
“In this moment, with the transfer ban, that releases the pressure,” he said. “They have a very good squad of course. I am very curious to see the direction Frank is going to go.
“Today, does (Olivier) Giroud or Tammy Abraham play? If Tammy Abraham plays and Chelsea doesn’t win, people can go in the direction of the younger players, they need time, they are not playing to win the Premier League.
“You don’t buy players but you buy time.”
Though Mourinho said he did not believe United could win the title, he believes it is vital Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s players do not share that view.
“The dressing room must feel they can win the title,” he said. “If they don’t feel it, they are in trouble, but I think to finish (in the) top four would be a good achievement.”
However, Mourinho, sacked in December by United, admitted he did not have that belief himself at the start of last season.
“When I said that second position the previous season was one of my biggest achievements in football I was not having fun with the words,” he said. “I just was just telling you what I was feeling.
“I didn’t feel last season we did enough in the transfer window to allow us to compete for the first position because though we finished second the distance to first was very considerable.
“So I don’t feel this season they can (win) but I hope they feel they can because that will be an important motivational push for them.”
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