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Ominous Man Utd start EPL season in style

Soccer

Romelu Lukaku scored twice on debut and Paul Pogba capped an ominous team display with a late long-range goal as Manchester United beat West Ham 4-0 in their opening game of the Premier League season.

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With Nemanja Matic excelling in central midfield, United looks to have a side that can seriously challenge for its first league title since 2013, Alex Ferguson’s final year at the club.

Lukaku finished off a quick counterattack, sparked by Matic’s closing-down of an opponent in the centre circle, to put United ahead in the 33rd minute. He added a second with a header from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s free-kick in the 52nd.

Substitute Anthony Martial ran onto Mkhitaryan’s through-ball to slot home a third goal in the 87th and Pogba was given space to curl in from 25 metres in injury time.

Lukaku called his club debut for the Red Devils a ‘”dream come true”, while manager Jose Mourinho felt it was the perfect way to get his new star striker confident for the season ahead.

“It’s always important,”Mourinho said of Lukaku scoring.

“New players in new clubs, new strikers, everyone expects goals from them.

“The pressure is with them. It’s always nice for their confidence.”

Despite being top of the league Mourinho insisted the early win means little in the context of the season.

“We didn’t start especially well, we were a little bit nervous for 10, 15 minutes. Then we had a quality performance,” he said.

“The team was confident and played great football. I’m happy, I think it was a very positive performance.

“The fact that we start (by) winning and are top of the league means nothing, because last season we started winning and I think we were top of the league after the first match – it means nothing.”

Earlier Tottenham capitalised on Jonjo Shelvey’s senseless sending-off to beat Newcastle 2-0 in their season opener with Dele Alli and Ben Davies scoring in the final half-hour.

Shelvey stomped on the right foot of Alli, who was sitting on the ground, as he tried to resume play after a free-kick had been awarded.

The 48th-minute incident took place right in front of the referee, at a time when Newcastle was looking comfortable against one of the favourites for the title.

Tottenham immediately took charge of the match and Alli slid in at the far post to steer in a cross from Christian Eriksen in the 61st minute.

Alli, who helped Eriksen set up the other for Davies, who neatly beat Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot in the 70th minute, made light of Shelvey’s petulant reaction.

“I’m sure he’ll be disappointed,” Alli told Sky Sports.

“It was important we stayed professional. I don’t want to talk about it too much. I’ve been pulled up for my temper before but today we had to keep our cool. There was no need to react.”

Newcastle’s cause wasn’t helped by losing defenders Paul Dummett and Florian Lejeune – the 200th French player to feature in a Premier League game – to injury in the first half.

Harry Kane should have added to that misery in stoppage time as Spurs charged forward but hit the post with only Elliot to beat.

Newcastle winger Christian Atsu said the temperamental Shelvey had apologised to his teammates after the game.

“That’s football,” the Ghanaian said.

“He’ll learn from his mistakes. He’s upset with himself and thinks he let the team down. He apologised to everyone and we believe he will come back stronger.”

-AP

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