In a battle between two teams banking on youth, Manchester United came on top and showed that their young crop is as good as anyone else’s.
There was a sense of careful excitement as Manchester United fans got ready to welcome back their team to Old Trafford for the season opener against Chelsea.
It was a game billed as a contest between two young managers out to prove a point at a club where they won so much as players. Indeed there are tons of similarities between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard.
Both men are considered legends at their respective clubs and have experienced all the highs and lows of representing two great institutions of the English game. Both men were entrusted to steady the two wayward ships whose masts had fallen off in recent years.
While both battleships had been battered and bruised, the sense of pride among the inhabitants never left.
While Manchester United have never been the same since Sir Alex Ferguson left, Chelsea have never been consistent for more than two years.
Both managers, for varying reasons, were going to give the youth a chance. Solskjaer was keen on using the academy products and young players and fielded a team whose average age was 24.
Lampard’s case was different since he was entrusted to take care of a team that had no option but to rely upon a young group of players due to a transfer embargo. There has got to be a feeling that the former midfielder got his fantasy job only because no other experienced manager wanted the Stamford Bridge hotseat given the circumstances.
Regardless, Lampard set his team out to play exciting football rather than throw caution to the winds.
However, the first battle between these two was clearly won by the Norwegian whose team settled down after a rather shaky start.
When Tammy Abraham beat David De Gea early on, there was an obvious groan from the Stratford End as fans hoped for the first. And who can blame them? The fans have seen decades long records tumble down like ninepins in recent years.
Fortunately, woodwork came to the rescue.
Things changed though. Once Manchester United players settled down, they started playing the sort of high-pressing football that was on display during preseason. And that was to be Chelsea’s downfall.
Once Kurt Zouma made an uncharacteristic error which resulted in a penalty that was easily converted by Marcus Rashford, flood gates had pretty much opened.
While the Chelsea youngsters failed to take the initiative, the Manchester United players took the game to the visitors in the second half and made sure that the defense never settled down.
Anthony Martial scored the second goal after some great work by Andreas Periera. A few minutes later, Paul Pogba, the man who was supposed to leave this summer, provided a long ball only he can muster up to put Rashford through to his second goal of the evening.
Even young Daniel James got into the act and scored his first goal in the Premier League after being introduced only seven minutes earlier.
It was a very professional display from Solskjaer’s young charges who should not be getting carried away but also shouldn’t be considered cannon fodder for what could be an exciting top four battle this season.