Manchester United punished Chelsea at Old Trafford as Frank Lampard’s first match in charge ended in a humiliating 4-0 Premier League defeat.
The Premier League kept the most eagerly anticipated of the opening weekend to last as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started the Reds’ latest transitional season against a side buoyed by the appointment of a club great.
Lampard’s side were on top for large patches but ended up being blown away at Old Trafford, where Marcus Rashford’s double complemented goals from Anthony Martial and debutant Daniel James as United’s curtain-raiser ended in a dream 4-0 victory.
Solskjaer will be first to admit the display was far from perfect, but this win was just the tonic after a summer of discontent.
The scoreline misrepresents the gap between these two teams on the day but even if Chelsea had several good moments throughout, it is difficult to imagine things going much worse than this on Frank Lampard’s Premier League managerial debut.
Lampard claimed he is relishing the chance to prove the pre-season doom-mongers wrong but the more pessimistic predictions of the Blues’ fate this term saw plenty of evidence to support that view here.
Manchester United were hardly flawless themselves – in fact, Manchester City and Liverpool will have not much here to worry them in the longer term – but they were ruthless on the counter-attack, exposing a Chelsea display blighted by errors at both ends of the pitch.
Mason Mount was handed his senior debut at Old Trafford while Tammy Abraham made only his third Chelsea appearance in a line-up that provided significant early evidence of Lampard’s willingness to trust youth.
Abraham hit the post with a vicious strike just seven minutes in but he faded as a significant force thereafter. Mount got himself into several promising positions but needs to show better decision-making, notably when picking the wrong option on 31 minutes after being found in space in the box by Ross Barkley.
Both will surely improve for the experience and are likely to be given more opportunities; United may not be the force of old but to blood his youngsters here feels like a sign of things to come.
Lampard’s decision to allow David Luiz to join Arsenal for £8milion on deadline day was always going to increase the scrutiny on the centre-backs he had placed ahead of the Brazilian in his thinking.
Fikayo Tomori impressed under Lampard on loan at Derby last season but he was left on the bench given the magnitude of the fixture with Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma’s experience giving them the edge.
However, Zouma gifted Anthony Martial a glorious chance with a terrible pass after seven minutes and clumsily brought down Marcus Rashford for the penalty which gave United the lead.
Antonio Rudiger is close to a return from injury but playing Tomori in future may not feel like such a gamble if Zouma doesn’t quickly put this performance behind him.
Lampard claimed in his Friday pre-match press conference that N’Golo Kante had recovered from a knee injury but harboured concerns about starting him due to a lack of match fitness.
The 28-year-old was left on the bench and could only watch on as Chelsea’s midfield struggled to cope with United’s blistering pace on the counter-attack.
Kante’s positioning was a constant source of irritation for many fans during Maurizio Sarri’s season in charge and his importance was underlined again here, only introduced for the final 17 minutes with the game already over as a contest at 3-0.
In fairness to Lampard, Kane looked rusty, playing the ball straight out of play at one point before picking up a booking near the end.
It would be ludicrous to expect anything other than Chelsea fans remaining wholeheartedly supportive of Lampard given this is merely the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
But the ceaseless backing he received here even as the game drifted away from the Blues was a clear indication of the unifying effect the former midfielder has had at a club which became fractured under Sarri.
This ended up being a chastening afternoon but Lampard’s iconic status combined with a commitment to youth and a recognition of how tough life will be without Eden Hazard while under a transfer ban will ensure he gets more time than most Chelsea managers to make it work.
He made a point of acknowledging the travelling supporters at full-time. The reception at Stamford Bridge against Leicester City will be something else.