The new Premier League season has already seen many of the title challengers struggle to get off the mark, but Manchester United had no such trouble on Sunday with an emphatic 4-0 trouncing of West Ham at Old Trafford.
Champions Chelsea, clearly thin on numbers and thick on transfer frustration, were beaten 3-2 by Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday having been three goals down at half time. Liverpool, meanwhile, were held to a wildly entertaining but ultimately unfulfilling 3-3 draw by Watford at Vicarage Road.
Elsewhere, Arsenal scraped past Leicester City 4-3 thanks to two late goals, with only Manchester City and Tottenham looking competent at both ends of the pitch, albeit against newly-promoted opposition, as they defeated Brighton and Newcastle respectively 2-0.
United, on the other hand, comfortably beat the Hammers, running riot as they won 4-0, with Jose Mourinho’s men immediately laying down a title marker.
Of course, one must issue the obvious caveat; United have spent well north of £100 million this summer, recruiting Romelu Lukaku from Everton, Victor Lindelof from Benfica and Nemanja Matic from Chelsea.
While Lindelof was not included in the squad to face the Irons, both Lukaku and Matic excelled on their official debuts.
Lukaku, as the script decreed, opened the scoring with an impressive finish, turning home a fine through ball from the effervescent Marcus Rashford as the first half drew to a close. Few should have been surprised, either, as Lukaku had scored in nine of his previous 10 appearances against West Ham.
The goal would not have been possible without the influence of Matic, however, who harried Pedro Obiang into a mistake in the middle of the pitch, with Rashford there to scoop up possession and set off on a trademark burst.
And Lukaku was again on the scoresheet in the second half, sending an excellent header past Joe Hart from a dipping, swerving Henrikh Mkhitaryan delivery. Anthony Martial, who later replaced Rashford, marked his cameo with a late goal, and Paul Pogba then sent United top of the league with a superb effort from outside the box.
A penny for Antonio Conte’s thoughts on Matic’s performance, as the midfielder won tackle after tackle, skipped past challenges and kick-started moves from deep.
A £40m acquisition, Mourinho had expressed his surprise at his side’s ability to do the deal in midweek.
“I was not thinking of signing Matic because I never go for players who I think are an impossible mission to sign. I felt that there would be no chance,” he told reporters.
“So when I got the call that Matic wants to play for me and wants to play for Manchester United - and that we could make it happen - I thought he's the perfect player for me.
“When I joined United last year I thought immediately that we needed a Matic. There aren't many like him. Just a couple. He is one of those players who has no question marks over him.”
Of course, one cannot discount the possibility that Mourinho was attempting to rile his former club, but Conte himself has alluded to the possibility that he did not want to sell Matic – instead hoping for his marquee midfield signing, Tiemoue Bakayoko, to learn under the Serbian’s tutelage.
Instead Matic is at Old Trafford, and he could be the final part of Mourinho’s title-winning puzzle.
While he inherited a team in desperate need of direction, he now has one that boasts pace, power, creativity and a diamond in the rough up front, who is able to ally a clinical finishing ability with a truly frightening physical presence.
While Matic reminded United and Chelsea fans alike of his undoubted excellence against the Hammers, Juan Mata zigged and zagged, always looking for the ball and a chance, Mkhitaryan prowled the edge of the box, eventually gaining a deserved assist, and Paul Pogba looked to pull the strings.
Rashford, too, was a constant threat, with West Ham truly befuddled by his quick feet and ability to both drop deep and surge beyond the defensive line. His display deserved a goal, but he could only hit the post after yet another surge in the second half.
It cannot be understated that West Ham were truly terrible. They have signed a number of players, including former Red Javier Hernandez, but they have no sense of purpose, direction or defensive organisation.
Yet you can only play what is in front of you, and Manchester United have a rather kind opening to this Premier League season, facing Swansea City, Leicester, Stoke, Everton, Southampton and Crystal Palace before meeting a true rival, Liverpool, in October.
United end the first weekend of the season sitting pretty at the top of the league. On the strength of this performance, few would bet against them staying there for the duration.