Football is back!
After an arduous three-month wait for proper football; the pick of the opening round of Premier League football was saved for last in Manchester United’s Sunday afternoon hosting of Chelsea. It presents Frank Lampard’s bow as Chelsea manager against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revamped charges.

Chelsea have lost once from 20 opening fixtures, but are only one behind United (18) on the record for opening day wins in the Premier League. The blues however, won the last opening day fixture between these two at Stamford Bridge, in José Mourinho’s first game in charge of Chelsea in 2004. For Frank Lampard, the target is a first win at Old Trafford since 2013 as United are unbeaten in their last six home games against Chelsea. 

Chelsea have failed to win this Premier League classic at Old Trafford since May 2013. Image Credit: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images 

Manchester United are looking to kick on the Solskjaer era after ending last season in a whimper, winning only two of their final nine games. As promised, they went for hungry, young English players in the summer transfer window. In came Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to improve their depth in offensive and defensive wide areas and most-importantly; the record transfer of Harry Maguire was completed to shore up a defence which conceded 54 last season, their worst defensive record since 1979.

Harry Maguire joined United to become the world’s most expensive defender. Image Credit: Manchester United via Getty Images 

Although United failed to either re-inforce the attacking ranks or replace Romelu Lukaku; they kept Paul Pogba and will be very confident of their chances this year. Solskjaer focused on working the team hard in pre-season and instilled a high-energy style in a side that was pragmatic under Louis Van Gaal and José Mourinho. United will look to take the initiative, with defenders who are comfortable on the ball and a pace and energy about the team. Pogba’s creativity will be relied upon once again as their speedy attackers like to make runs in-behind.

Ross Barkley has shown terrific form in pre-season for ex-England teammate Lampard. Image Credit: Getty Images

Frank Lampard navigated a summer of transition at Chelsea quite impressively. Getting the job just a day to the start of pre-season, he has to steer them from the loss of talisman Eden Hazard under a transfer embargo. Mateo Kovačić’s loan from last season was made permanent while Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek signed long-term contracts. Returning loanees Kurt Zouma, Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Kenedy, Reece James and January signing Christian Pulisic have also bolstered the squad.
Lampard is getting his philosophy in place at Chelsea much like Solskjaer. With a keen role for young players ; as evidenceed emphatically by David Luiz’s exit from the club, the blueslegend demands a high-intensity style with his front four working hard for the ball when they lose it. Academy graduates Andreas Christensen, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham will have important roles this season and will likely start against United. Christian Pulisic and particularly Ross Barkley impressed in pre-season as the whole squad got to grips with the new style.

Tammy Abraham is looking to seize his chance this season. Image Credit: Getty Images

From all indications it is set to be an electric affair with top quality football on show; as both teams try to impress and lay down early markers for their rivals. The array of young talent set to be on show is a good indicator of how these players would have developed when this fixture comes up in a few years.
Would both teams show enough to challenge for the top four? That remains to be seen, but from their summer business they would feel good about their vision. 

Personally, I’m just happy to be able to put the words ‘next season’ on temporary retirement. The football season is here!

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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