By Jonathan Jurejko
Romelu Lukaku announced his arrival at Old Trafford by scoring twice on his Premier League debut for Manchester United as they embarrassed West Ham.
Jose Mourinho’s team were a constant threat against a poor Hammers side, offering excitement and encouragement to their supporters on the opening weekend of the new Premier League season.
Lukaku, a £75m summer signing from Everton, put the Red Devils ahead with a rising drive off the post after racing onto Marcus Rashford’s pass.
The Belgium international doubled the lead after half-time, glancing in a header from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s inswinging free-kick.
United teenager Rashford curled against the inside of Joe Hart’s left-hand post before substitute Anthony Martial ended the match as a contest with a slick finish.
There was still time for a fourth, however, as Paul Pogba curled in from distance.
The Hammers offered little going forward in a passive performance, although new signing Marko Arnautovic did flick a header onto the top of the home crossbar at 2-0.
The Red Devils have now lost only one of their 14 opening-day Premier League fixtures at Old Trafford, while West Ham’s season began with a record 11th defeat.
Manchester United might have won the Europa League and League Cup in Mourinho’s debut season at Old Trafford, but Red Devils supporters will be expecting, if not demanding, a serious title challenge after a less-than-adequate sixth-placed finish last term.
Mourinho spent almost £150m on Everton striker Lukaku, Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic and Benfica defender Victor Lindelof this summer in a bid to achieve it.
Although Mourinho’s new-look side were outclassed by European champions Real Madrid in Tuesday’s Super Cup defeat, the Portuguese boss refused to be downbeat afterwards.
Solace could be taken that Madrid contained a level of quality unlikely to be seen in the Premier League this season – and certainly not from their opening opponents.
So it proved.
The home side played with verve and purpose from the start as the Hammers sat back in a bid to contain and frustrate them.
It was a tactic that opponents used to successfully stifle Mourinho’s side on several occasions at Old Trafford last season, but once Lukaku broke the deadlock the Hammers never looked like clawing their way back into the game.
Style is equally as important as substance for many United fans and their attacking approach – which saw them rack up 22 shots – will provide encouragement to supporters hoping for a first Premier League title since 2013.