The opening weekend of the Premier League saw no end of drama as Huddersfield and Burnley upset the applecart, Romelu Lukaku hit the ground running and the art of defending was taken round the back and shot.
It was a mixed weekend for the self-styled “Big Six” as some breezed past their opponents, some struggled to overcome dogged opposition, others had done that only to throw it away and the champions imploded.
All in all a busy weekend in England’s top tier, but who stood out and why?
Manchester United. This is more like it, Jose. This is the ruthless bullying of inferior opposition so often missing from Old Trafford last season, but back with a vengeance in Sunday’s 4-0 rout against West Ham. Pace, dynamism, power, athleticism, and other words you’d find on a Lucozade Sport bottle. This Man United performance had it all, and laid down a marker for the season ahead.
Romelu Lukaku. 11 goals against West Ham now for the Belgian striker – the Hammers really were the perfect opposition for him to begin life as a Man United player. With a £75m price tag and the responsibility of spearheading Man United’s title challenge on his shoulders, there is a lot of pressure on him to perform – this was the perfect start.
Huddersfield. The newly-promoted side could be forgiven for approaching Saturday’s tie at Selhurst Park with a degree of trepidation – Newcastle and Brighton may have been handed tougher fixtures in theory but the Terriers were still up against it. What followed was a lesson in fearlessness as they proceeded to tear Frank de Boer’s Crystal Palace apart and come away with a surprisingly easy 3-0 victory.
Steve Mounie. Huddersfield took a big risk in paying £12m for the Benin international. Two goals on his debut wasn’t a bad way to begin paying them back.
Burnley. What Sean Dyche must have been thinking when his team went in 3-0 up at Stamford Bridge at half time on Saturday. How does one even begin to start a team talk like that, and what does he even tell them? Defend now? Go for the jugular? Chelsea came back in the second half but the Clarets held on for a famous 3-2 win.
Wayne Rooney. The dream comeback, all things considered. Doubts will remain about his ability to lead the line for Everton all season, but the England captain’s scoring return was a fine way to keep the doubters quiet for the time being at least.
Chelsea. A worryingly hollow bench (with two suspensions to come), opening day 3-2 defeat to Burnley with two men sent off – all is not right in the Chelsea camp. Antonio Conte will demand new signings until he is red in the face but with a trip to White Hart Lane to come next weekend, the champions’ August could be about to get a whole lot worse.
Liverpool. It really is two steps forward and one step back with this team. The front three already looks like a deadly combination (with Philippe Coutinho potentially to be added to the mix) but it’s completely undone but their horrible defensive play. Three goals against Watford away should be enough to beat them – that it wasn’t is down to their own defence’s ineptitude and Jurgen Klopp’s seeming inability to address it.
Ander Herrera. A star man for Man United last season, it must have worried him slightly to see Nemanja Matic have such an impressive debut – not least because he was doing a lot of the things Herrera was entrusted with last year. He still has a place in the squad, there’s no doubt about that, but that they did not miss him one iota against West Ham will not have gone unnoticed.
Jonjo Shelvey. Named Newcastle captain against Tottenham on Sunday, not doing something stupid must have been among the top of the instructions given to him by Rafa Benitez. Stamping on Dele Alli counts as something stupid. Not to suggest that the result would have been any different had the Magpies been with ten men for the duration, but Benitez has every right to be furious with the midfielder.
Frank de Boer. Welcome to England, Frank. Any more results like that one and the stay at Selhurst Park might not be a long one.
Southampton. The Saints have seemingly forgotten how to score at St. Mary’s. Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Swansea on Saturday was the sixth league game in a row in front of their own fans in which they have failed to find the net. It’s not quite panic stations yet but something has be changed there.
Premier League defences: That sound you can hear is a thousand Italian defenders bursting into tears.