In Matthew Galea’s new weekly column, he will run the rule over all things Manchester United and the Premier League in the week that was, with a look to the week ahead.
If first impressions count, then life is off to a rosy start for Manchester United under Jose Mourinho, but he was not the only big-name manager to get off to a winning start.
Elsewhere, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte both enjoyed Premier League debut wins with Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
City were 2-1 winners over David Moyes’ Sunderland in a largely forgettable affair as Conte relied on a bit of luck and a Diego Costa winner in their 2-1 home win over West Ham United.
Of the three I think it would be fair to say that Mourinho’s team impressed the most but against easier opponents – even if away from home.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic delivered on his Premier League arrival, Eric Bailly looked the goods in his league debut, while Marouane Fellaini looked more like his former Everton self than he ever has in United colours with further good performances from Daley Blind, Antonio Valencia and the returning Luke Shaw.
Bournemouth were plucky last season and even got the better of United last season, but this was always a game Mourinho would have expected to win comfortably and he will be no more than satisfied with what he saw.
Conte’s Chelsea faced the toughest task against West Ham and while he needed a bit of luck, his team were all over the visitors for much of the game.
Eventual match-winner Costa was lucky not to be sent off before scoring his late winner and West Ham were good value for at least a point, but Chelsea displayed all the winning grit we have come to expect from Conte’s teams.
The Italian might just be the pick of the bunch of the new appointments over the off-season.
I am a big fan of how he organises his teams and the winning mentality he instils in them, assets which I think – while Chelsea do not have the best squad in the league – might make them the toughest team to beat.
Guardiola’s City, perhaps as expected, retained more possession than either United or Chelsea, smashing Sunderland 77-23 in that respect, but failed to reflect that dominance on the scoresheet.
In the end it was only an own-goal from recently departed United defender Paddy McNair that got him the win, while City’s opener came through a Sergio Aguero penalty, but he will know better things are to come from his team.
Begrudgingly, I suppose I also have to mention Jurgen Klopp as he kicked off his first full season in charge of Liverpool with an impressive 4-3 win over Arsenal at the Emirates inspired by Phillipe Coutinho.
At their best, Liverpool were a class above Arsenal, but they are still prone to mental lapses and their weak defence made for easy pickings for Arsene Wenger’s men as they fought back into the game.
Looking ahead to the weekend, I cannot wait to see how Mourinho sets up in his Old Trafford debut against Southampton.
It has not been an easy off-season for the Theatre of Dreams’ first visitors for the season with Ronald Koeman jumping ships to Everton, but Claude Puel has still assembled a decent them that put in a good shift against Watford – led by another Premier League debutant in Walter Mazzarri – and they will not make for easy beats.
Mourinho has assembled a squad that allows him plenty of variety and while Paul Pogba is sure to make his first Premier League start for the club, who lines up with him will be interesting.
Some want Wayne Rooney to make way but I doubt that will happen after his goal last weekend and frankly as much as he is disliked, it would be a brave man that advocates the dropping of Fellaini after his strong performance against Bournemouth.
That leaves Ander Herrera as the likely exclusion for Pogba, through little fault of his own, while Juan Mata might also be back on the bench despite his goal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan in line for his Old Trafford debut.
The other interesting selection dilemma comes at centre back where Mourinho could welcome back Chris Smalling, but for who?
Bailly has been named man of the match (deservedly so) two games running and Blind was the perfect complement to the Ivorian’s robust nature.
A Bailly-Smalling partnership would certainly be the more physical, agile partnership to help guard David de Gea’s goal and that might win the day – though Mourinho will still have to decide which of the two right-sided players plays on the left side of the partnership.
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @mg91