A brace from £75-million-man Romelu Lukaku helped a rampant Manchester United to condemn us to a 4-0 defeat in our opening-fixture of the 2017/2018 Premier League season.
Lukaku, who has now scored 11-goals in his last 14-appearances against us, struck in either half and the performance was rounded off by Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba for the hosts.
United displayed their impressive squad-depth by naming a side that included a scary amount of talent, whilst still leaving the likes of Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard on the bench.
However, the team that started the game were more than up to the task of keeping Jose Mourinho’s record of never losing a game on a Sunday in his career going.
Whereas Slaven Bilic, who was beginning his second season as Hammers boss, had as many as six usual first team players missing. The stars that were absent from the travelling squad came in the form of last season’s Hammer of the Year Michail Antonio, Andy Carroll, Robert Snodgrass, Cheikhou Kouyate, star man Manuel Lanzini and new signing Sead Haksabanovic.
The absences proved costly for Bilic’s boys, as we had our backs to the wall from the off in Manchester.
The home side came out of the blocks quickly in their bid for a 21st Premier League Title and could have led early, but Henrik Mkhitaryan failed to profit from an Arthur Masuaku mistake.
However, United would not have to wait long for their first clear-cut opportunity of the game as Juan Mata was slipped in by Mkhitaryan, but when he eventually fashioned a cross Angelo Ogbonna was on hand to keep Lukaku out. Mata would soon get another chance to cross for the big Belgian, but yet again the Italy international centre back Ogbonna denied him.
Individual mistakes had been the thorn in our side last season and would play a major role in The Red Devils’ opener on 33-minutes. Pedro Obiang, who had impressed enough to earn him a regular starting place last term, found himself dispossessed by Nemanja Matic in midfield, with the Serbian picking out Marcus Rashford to go on a superb run.
The England forward eventually found Lukaku with a delightful ball and the former Everton man made no mistake in finding the net via both posts. The move was allowed to flow by new signing Pablo Zabaleta being out of position after the Argentinian charged forward in-attack.
However, we would be dealt a glimmer of hope on the stroke of half-time, but Edimilson Fernandes could only fire straight at David De Gea from an opening to ensure that the home side kept their slim advantage at the break.
The hosts would begin the second period in the same vein that they ended the first and only needed seven minutes to double their lead. Yet another old tactical foe that arose last season was defending from set pieces and that would prove to be our Achilles Heel at “The Theatre of Dreams”.
A free-kick from the left-side was swung in by Mkhitaryan and met by the head of Romelu Lukaku, who was allowed a free header at goal by Arthur Masuaku. The French international was heavily criticised for his involvement in the goal and substituted later on for the returning Aaron Cresswell.
In response to the second goal, Slaven Bilic brought on Diafra Sakho for his return from injury and Academy youngster Declan Rice, but this did little to stem the tide of the Red Devils’ attack.
However, new signing Javier Hernandez was impressing on his debut up front with Sakho, but the pair found themselves far too isolated. Both sides would hit the woodwork before the hosts struck for the third time, with club record winger Marko Arnautovic striking the bar with a header and Rashford hitting the post from range for Jose Mourinho’s men.
However, the home side found their third on 87-minutes through substitute Anthony Martial, who finished calmly past Joe Hart.
The triumph was rounded off for the team in Red and Black by former world record signing, midfielder Paul Pogba, with the Frenchman’s run and shot slipping under Hart and into the Hammers net for 4-0.
The resounding victory sends Mourinho and Manchester United to the top of the Premier League table at the end of week one, and roots us to an embarrassing 20th place.
So, with an unstoppable United side ensuring our second consecutive opening day defeat, there will be no respite from tough away trips when we face Southampton at St. Mary’s in six-days-time.
Man of the Match: Javier Hernandez