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Matic proves precisely what Man United need as summer signings dominate in win

Date Posted,August 13, 2017

Romelu Lukaku bagged a double on his Premier League debut for Manchester United as the club’s summer dealings shone in their season opener.

Old Trafford’s faithful were treated to a thumping 4-0 win over West Ham in the late Sunday kick-off.

Nemanja Matic’s arrival from Chelsea was marked with an assured performance, backed up by Lukaku’s finishing after his move from Everton, before late goals for Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba.

For West Ham, Joe Hart, Marko Arnautovic, Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernandez all started.

Here’s how the two club’s new boys fared, according to David McDonnell at Old Trafford.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Nemanja Matic

Jose Mourinho was surprised his former club Chelsea were willing to sell Matic to him, as was current Stamford Bridge boss Antonio Conte, and it’s easy to see why after such an imperious performance from the Serbian.

Matic is precisely what United needed, a midfield anchorman to protect the back-four, break up the play and give balance to the entire team.

Matic in the thick of it at Old Trafford (Image: REUTERS)

But Matic, as he proved against West Ham, is much more than a physical midfield enforcer, even if it was his interception, winning the ball from the feet of Pedro Obiang, that led to United’s opener.

He has quick feet, superb control and touch, and possesses an impressive array of passing, all of which makes him such a key signing for United and Mourinho. If he carries on playing like this for United, Chelsea will be racked by regret and self-recrimination that they ever let him go.

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Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku scored on his debuts for West Brom and Everton, and continued that impressive record by bagging two goals on his Premier League debut for Manchester United.

The first was a rasping finish in off the near post after impressive work from Marcus Rashford and Matic, who won the ball to spark the move that led to the goal.

Romelu Lukaku bagged a double in his first league game for the Red Devils (Image: Getty)

Lukaku’s second was simpler but no less significant, a glancing header from a Henrikh Mkhitaryan free-kick which left West Ham keeper Joe Hart rooted to the spot and gave Jose Mourinho’s side the breathing space they needed to see out the game with a deserved and comfortable win.

Lukaku could not have wished for a better debut following his £75million – rising to £90m – move from Everton, his power, physicality and clinical finishing filling the void left by the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the summit of United’s attack.

WEST HAM

Joe Hart

The cheers of ‘City reject’ began when Hart came out for the warm-up and were cranked up by the Stretford End as West Ham’s on-loan keeper stood in front of Manchester United’s fans prior to kick-off.

Hart claimed he had nothing to prove to Pep Guardiola, only to Slaven Bilic and England boss Gareth Southgate, but the 30-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Torino, was under huge scrutiny at Old Trafford.

Joe Hart punches clear on a debut to forget for the Hammers (Image: Rex Features)

Hart was certainly kept busy by United’s relentless pressure and equipped himself well, coming off his line sharply in the 18 minute to deny Juan Mata, and showed decent anticipation to palm away a dangerous cross from Henrikh Mkhitaryan just before the half-hour.

There was little he could do to keep out Lukaku’s thumping opener or the forward’s second, for which he was left exposed by his lamentable defence.

Pablo Zabaleta

Released by Manchester City in the summer, Zabaleta found himself back in his former adopted city for the opening game of the new campaign, along with former Blues team-mate Hart.

It was an unhappy return for Pablo Zabaleta (Image: REUTERS)

He may have lacked the pace and dynamism demanded of full-backs by Guardiola, but Bilic wanted Zabelata’s experience, although that counted for little with the Argentine stranded upfield as United launched the breakneck counter-attack that led to their opener.

Zabaleta was also culpable for United’s second goal, his cynical foul on Marcus Rashford earning him a yellow card and allowing Mkhitaryan to pick out Lukaku from the set-piece to establish a 2-0 lead. Not a happy return to Manchester for Zabaleta.

Marko Arnautovic

Signed from Stoke for £20m this summer, rising to £25m, Arnautovic was largely anonymous here, his task made harder given he was up against Antonio Valencia, described by Mourinho as “the best right-back in the world”.

Marko Arnautovic struggled to make his mark at Old Trafford (Image: REUTERS)

Arnautovic plundered some spectacular goals for Stoke, but his Premier League debut for West Ham was strangely subdued, his only moment of note coming in the first-half coming when he was ruled offside, then compounded that error by thudding a shot against the frame of the goal after the whistle had gone, much to the amusement of the home fans.

Arnautovic did clip the bar with a looping header just before the hour mark, but such moments were few and far between from the Austria international.

Javier Hernandez

Former Manchester United striker Hernandez received a warm reception before kick-off on his return to Old Trafford, but the Mexico international, who spent five years with the Reds, scoring 59 goals in 157 appearances, did little to trouble his old club.

Javier Hernandez found himself stranded up front for the Hammers (Image: PA)

It took Hernandez, a predatory finisher but also an habitual offside offender throughout his career, just two minutes to ensure the assistant referee’s flag was raised, although West Ham played so deep and had so little of the ball there were few occasions when the 29-year-old forward was able to get in behind United’s defence.

One moment summed up Hernandez’s afternoon, just after the hour, when he found himself in bags of space in the centre circle, under no pressure, and proceeded to under hit a pass which was intercepted with ease by United full-back Valencia. Hernandez will surely score goals for West Ham, but his best days – which came in the red of United – are undoubtedly behind him.

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