Can he play you every week? Let’s face it, if Romelu Lukaku could, Manchester United would be absolute certainties to win the league.
In his last 11 games against West Ham, this is the 10th match in which he has scored. A goalless draw with Everton at the Olympic Stadium on April 22 this year marking the only time he has failed.
On this occasion, his Premier League debut for Manchester United, get got two. Nothing like taking the pressure off, and if ever a team is designed to relieve tension for Lukaku, it is West Ham.
Lukaku raises his arms aloft in front of the Old Trafford stands as Paul Pogba runs to celebrate with his new team-mate
Lukaku fended off West Ham defender Winston Reid before smashing the ball past on-loan goalkeeper Joe Hart
Lukaku doubled his and Manchester United’s tally after meeting Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s free-kick with his head
Anthony Martial made the most of his late cameo after coming on for Rashford as he finished off a fine team move
Paul Pogba sends Manchester United top of the table on goal difference with a fourth strike in the 90th minute of the game
Lukaku celebrates with his new team-mate and close friend Pogba after the Frenchman adds a fourth and final goal
MATCH FACTS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
MANCHESTER UNTIED: De Gea, Valencia, Blind, Jones, Bailly, Matic, Pogba, Mkhitaryan (Lingard 88), Mata (Fellaini 76), Rashford (Martial 80), Lukaku.
SUBS NOT USED: Romero, Darmian, Smalling, Herrera.
GOALS: Lukaku 33, 53; Martial 87; Pogba 90
BOOKINGS: Bailly, Valencia
WEST HAM: Hart; Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku (Cresswell 81); Noble (Rice 61), Obiang; Fernandes (Sakho 60), Arnautovic, Ayew; Hernandez.
SUBS NOT USED: Bryam, Collins, Fonte, Adrian.
BOOKINGS: Zabaleta, Ogbonna
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson
ATTENDANCE: To follow
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
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- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
Marcus Rashford played in Romelu Lukaku, who shot past Joe Hart to score the opener
The first was a counter-attack after sloppy play from Pedro Obiang let West Ham down; the second was a gift. Pablo Zabaleta made a cynical challenge on Marcus Rashford and was booked, before Lukaku delivered further punishment from the free-kick.
Henrik Mkhitaryan whipped it in from the left and Lukaku rose, inexplicably unguarded, to head the ball past Joe Hart. It won’t convince those who claim Lukaku only punishes the weak – although he did score against Real Madrid last week – but it was just the start a £75m acquisition needs in front of his own fans.
Even better is the understanding Lukaku seems to have developed with Marcus Rashford, creator of his first goal. When the young man was substituted with 11 minutes to go, he received an affectionate pat on the cheek from his partner, and the pair ran West Ham silly for much of the match.
Not that the change made any difference. On came Anthony Martial and, within minutes, had scored United’s third, finishing sweetly, set up by Mkhitaryan once more. It was no more than United’s performance merited, either. Each goal advance seemed merely a matter of time.
Lukaku uses the side of his left foot to guide the ball past Hart and his effort needed a deflection off the post to find the net
Lukaku turns towards his team-mates in celebration as the ball nestles in the back of the West Ham net in the first half
West Ham goalkeeper Hart stands still as he watches the ball bounce into the net after Lukaku guided it with his head
Hart screams in frustration as he sees his defence leave Lukaku unmarked and free to score Manchester United’s second goal
Rashford was desperately unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, too, cutting inside a striking the post with a shot after 66 minutes. Mkhitaryan, Lukaku and Daley Blind all went close in the second-half as well. Marko Arnautovic hit the bar with a looping header for West Ham, but they were very much second best.
The other huge positive for United, meanwhile, was the performance of Nemanja Matic, a £40m suicide note from whichever member of Chelsea’s transfer brains trust was running the show that week. Matic controlled the game in the heart of midfield, protecting the back four – not that West Ham offered much in the way of threat – and releasing Paul Pogba by his side. The Frenchman scored United’s fourth of the goal, following a neat pass from Martial, his low shot curling out of the reach of the forlorn Hart.
Despite Lukaku’s impact, Matic probably turned in the man of the match performance and will only have added to the funk settling on the shoulders of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. He seemed exactly the type of player they needed at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and just what they have been missing at Old Trafford.
For much of the first-half we wondered why West Ham did not commit more men forward, then they did and it all became clear. In quick succession, West Ham won free-kicks inside the Manchester United half. On both occasions, they sent men up in numbers that had not ventured north before. The first free-kick, taken by Marko Arnautovic was cut out by Manchester United’s front defensive line, setting up a quick counter-attack. From the second kick, Manchester United scored.
West Ham United’s Edimilson Fernandes forces David de Gea into a fine save with the final kick of the first half at Old Trafford
Mkhitaryan believes he has made it 3-0 after scoring but sees his effort ruled out as assister Rashford was offside
West Ham summer signing Marko Arnautovic reacts in disdain after seeing his effort deflected onto the bar by De Gea
Rashford comes within inches of making it 3-0 as his fierce effort bounces off of the post and out of Hart’s goalmouth
Matic tries a shot from outside the West Ham penalty box with Mark Noble and Pablo Zabaleta there to try and block it
Pedro Obiang was at fault. Receiving the ball and dawdling, his pass charged down by the impressive Nemanja Matic. From there, United were away. With Pablo Zabaleta well advanced there was huge space on the left and United exploited it perfectly.
Marcus Rashford sprinted upfield, making the yards and releasing Romelu Lukaku ahead at perfectly the right time. Lukaku had only Joe Hart to beat and finished with impressive power in front of the Stretford End, the ball cannoning off the inside of the near post, England’s goalkeeper helpless.
To be fair it had been coming; Manchester United in command even if this did not convert to a wealth of goalmouth opportunity. The first real chance came after 20 minutes, a quick free-kick taken by Daley Blind to Henrik Mkhitaryan, who put Juan Mata in with Hart pulled out to his right to repel.
He did his best but Mata got the ball into the middle where Angelo Ogbonna led a deputation of three West Ham defenders smothering Lukaku. There were appeals for a penalty, rightly dismissed by referee Martin Atkinson.
In the 28th minute, a lovely ball from Paul Pogba found Mata but his unselfish decision to try to play Lukaku in again allowed Ogbonna to recover and clear just in time. Until the goal it looked a familiar story for United – all the possession, no goals – and, in the last minute before half-time, West Ham showed the danger of trying to hold even a slender lead.
Mark Noble’s tenacity forced the ball through to his midfield partner Edmilson Fernandes and his first-time shot forced a fine reaction save from David De Gea. Had that gone in, it wouldn’t have been fair on United, but it would have been a lesson learned.
It has been four years out of the top three, having spent more than two decades inside it before that – and if this is to change they have got to take their chances this season.
Juan Mata attempts to break the deadlock with a deft effort but sees his effort saved by a sprawling Hart
West Ham striker Javier Hernandez, on his return to his former club, tries to bypass Manchester United defender Eric Bailly
West Ham goalkeeper comes of his line to prevent Lukaku from sealing his hat-trick by punching the ball away from the area
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has a discussion with his Manchester United counterpart Jose Mourinho on the touchline
England manager Gareth Southgate watches from the Old Trafford stands with assistant coach Steve Holland
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson takes his seat in the directors’ box before the match at Old Trafford