Trevor Steven: Brilliant Manchester United cast Chelsea in unflattering light in first weekend of Premier League season

Trevor Steven
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Nemanja Matic epitomised United's improvement and Chelsea's regression (Source: Getty)

There was no shortage of entertainment on the first weekend of the new Premier League season but most eye-catching was the contrast between two of the expected title challengers.

Everyone had been looking to Chelsea, as champions, to lay down a marker in their first match against Burnley, a team that on paper they should beat. Instead they slipped to a 3-2 home defeat.

Burnley deserve great credit but there were deficiencies in Chelsea’s performance that you would never have expected – and the visitors took full advantage.

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Blues captain Gary Cahill got sent off early on for an absolutely stupid challenge, new defender Antonio Rudiger was getting caught out of position and Chelsea lacked power in central midfield – even before Cesc Fabregas earned their second yellow card.

I don’t know why Alvaro Morata, who scored on his debut, started on the bench. He has done well coming on as a substitute in the past at Real Madrid but surely he hasn’t come to Chelsea to do that.

He is a better player than Michy Batshuayi and will only get the fitness he needs – and the confidence – by starting matches.

Antonio Conte saw his Chelsea side suffer a shock defeat at home to Burnley (Source: Getty)

Chelsea’s performance and everything else going on at Stamford Bridge surrounding recruitment and manager Antonio Conte is a big concern. It’s embarrassing and I’m not sure why they’ve allowed it to come to this.

I don’t know the nuts and bolts of Diego Costa’s situation but, again, it hasn’t been dealt with. It’s an open sore. On top of that they have let a proven performer in Nemanja Matic go to Manchester United.

Matic only highlighted that with his performance as United swept West Ham aside 4-0 on Sunday. The Serb looked like possibly their best summer signing and has fitted in like a hand in a glove.

Romelu Lukaku may have scored United’s opening goal but Matic showed his hunger by being involved in the build-up and then continuing his run to finish the move just yards from goal.

Jose Mourinho has earned a reputation for getting it right in the second season and he looks to have what he wants at United now.

For all their poor displays last term they got two trophies and Champions League qualification; now they have continued to improve while playing with style too.

It was high speed and high intensity, unrecognisable from last season and West Ham couldn’t live with it.

It was important that Pogba – with Matic, one of two giants in central midfield – got his second campaign off to a scoring start, while Marcus Rashford looked a threat as well.

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Tottenham could add to Chelsea's problems when they meet on Sunday (Source: Getty)

With an excellent squad, this level looks sustainable. And if they repeat it at Swansea on Saturday, United could be six points ahead of Chelsea at the end of the weekend.

Chelsea face a Tottenham side that started with a confidence-boosting 2-0 win at Newcastle. Spurs could do with a good result to begin their temporary residence at Wembley, but there is no better time to be playing the Blues than now.

Conte managed to arrest a bad start to last season with a tactical reshuffle and ended up winning the title, but I don’t think he’ll be able to do that again.

His squad is not as well balanced this time, but also the additional Champions League fixtures won’t allow him the time on the training pitch necessary to put things right.

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