London (AFP) – Manchester United enjoyed a dream start to the Premier League season as Bruno Fernandes scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds in front of 73,000 at Old Trafford, while Chelsea swept aside Crystal Palace 3-0 on Saturday.
Over 300,000 fans are expected to attend the opening weekend of the season with full crowds restored following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
United were inspired by a raucous atmosphere as Fernandes and Paul Pogba combined to blow away Marcelo Bielsa’s men.
Fernandes walked away with the match ball, but Pogba was just as impressive as the Frenchman produced four assists for the Portuguese’s first two goals and second-half strikes from Mason Greenwood and Fred.
“I can’t remember the last time that happened,” said Solskjaer on Pogba’s quartet of assists.
“Paul’s got that quality and, when you’ve got runners willing to make runs and create space for others, it opens up.”
Luke Ayling’s stunning strike early in the second-half briefly brought Leeds level, but it was another Old Trafford trip to forget for them after also being thrashed 6-2 last season.
“To have lost the way we lost cannot be described as just a blip,” said Bielsa.
– Chelsea cruise –
After seeing United display their title credentials, European champions Chelsea dispatched Palace in Patrick Vieira’s first match in charge of the Eagles with ease to make their own case.
Marcos Alonso’s free-kick and Christian Pulisic’s scuffed finish gave Thomas Tuchel’s men a commanding 2-0 lead before half-time.
Centre-back Trevoh Chalobah then marked his Premier League debut with a long-range strike to round off the scoring.
Elsewhere, Rafael Benitez went a long way to quieting his doubters at Everton as the Toffees came from behind to beat Southampton 3-1.
Adam Armstrong’s opener on his debut for the Saints saw Benitez’s men booed off at half-time at Goodison Park with many of the home fans still unhappy at the appointment of the former Liverpool manager.
But the mood was lifted straight after half-time by Richarlison’s equaliser before Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin ensured Benitez got off to a winning start.
Leicester also secured all three points as Jamie Vardy’s deft flick proved the difference in a 1-0 win over Wolves.
The FA Cup winners are once again seen as the biggest threat to the established top four of champions Manchester City, United, Chelsea and Liverpool for a place in the Champions League next season and were worthy winners despite two big missed chances from Adama Traore in Bruno Lage’s first game in charge of Wolves.
Life for Aston Villa without Jack Grealish got off to a terrible start as Watford celebrated their return to the top flight with a 3-2 win at Vicarage Road.
Goals from Emmanuel Dennis, Ismaila Sarr and Cucho Hernandez had the Hornets cruising towards victory.
John McGinn pulled a goal back and Danny Ings netted from the penalty spot on his debut, but it was too little, too late for Villa.
Brighton bounced back from conceding inside two minutes at Burnley to win 2-1 at Turf Moor thanks to second-half goals from Neal Maupay and Alexis MacAllister.
Liverpool are in action in Saturday’s late game (1630GMT) away to newly-promoted Norwich.
Virgil van Dijk returns to the Reds starting line-up for the first time since suffering cruciate ligament damage last October.
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