It proved to be a Stamford Bridge return for Jose Mourinho to forget as the Reds boss saw his Manchester United side beaten 4-0 by former team Chelsea.
The hosts netted the fastest goal of the Premier League season, after just 30 seconds, through Pedro who made the most of a defensive mix-up and slotted home. Gary Cahill fired a second on 22 minutes from a corner, before Eden Hazard added a third just after the hour-mark by finishing off a neat move from Chelsea. N’Golo Kante completed the scoring with a fine solo effort after 70 minutes on a really disappointing day for the Reds.
Mourinho had set his stall out in much the same fashion as United approached the visit to Anfield, with just the one change to that side as Jesse Lingard, who netted a screamer in this fixture last season, replaced Ashley Young, who was named among the substitutes.
In total there were six alterations from the side which demolished Fenerbahce on Thursday night, with Antonio Valencia, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini, Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera and Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming in for Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial. Club captain Rooney missed the match entirely due to an injury picked up in training.
United got off to the worst possible start when a long ball forward caused a mix-up between Chris Smalling and Daley Blind which allowed Pedro to nip in front of the onrushing David De Gea and slot into an empty net.
The shell-shocked Reds needed a response and almost got one on eight minutes when Zlatan Ibrahimovic rose to meet an excellent Valencia cross from the right, but the striker couldn’t keep his header down.
Chelsea looked a threat almost every time they attacked and corners were proving difficult for United to deal with. Victor Moses played a short one to Pedro and when he fired a pass to the unmarked Eden Hazard in the box, the Belgian sent a low drive narrowly wide. On 22 minutes the hosts doubled their lead through captain Gary Cahill. Hazard’s corner was not dealt with and after the ball bounced off Ander Herrera, it dropped to Cahill who smashed the ball into the net via Blind.
Mourinho’s men, who had decent spells of possession in the opening period, didn’t let their heads drop and after Rashford had a shot blocked from Ibrahimovic’s knockdown, Herrera forced a good save from Thibaut Courtois, who also kept put Lingard’s follow-up. Between those chances, De Gea cleared a Pedro cross with his legs as Chelsea tried to build on their advantage. Diego Costa, twice, thought he would do just that but seconds before the half-time whistle he saw his goalbound effort heroically blocked by Eric Bailly and when he did have the ball in the back of the net three minutes after the restart, the flag was up for offside.
Possession: Chelsea 48% United 52%
Shots: Chelsea 6 United 7
Shots on target: Chelsea 2 United 2
Corners: Chelsea 4 United 3
The Reds made two substitutions early in the second period as Juan Mata replaced Marouane Fellaini for the restart and Marcos Rojo subsequently came on the injured Bailly.
United enjoyed some decent possession as the visitors looked for a way back into the game. But after Lingard had seen a rasping 25-yard effort pushed away on 58 minutes, Chelsea went up the other end and netted a well-crafted third goal through Hazard. The scorer fed Kante who then found Nemanja Matic and when the defensive midfielder returned it to Hazard inside the box, the Belgian steered the ball past De Gea.
It got worse on 70 minutes when Kante was allowed to weave his way through the United defence and roll the ball into the corner for his first goal for Chelsea since his summer move from champions Leicester.
The game was done and dusted by that point but the Reds, of course, refused to give up and were only thwarted in the push for a consolation by two superb saves by Courtois, first from a lovely turn and shot from Ibrahimovic and secondly from a piledriver by substitute Rojo in injury time.
It was a day to forget for the Reds, despite an impressively vocal backing from the away fans, but another big game lies right around the corner with a Manchester derby to come next, on Wednesday in the EFL Cup.
Possession: Chelsea 44% United 56%
Shots: Chelsea 14 United 16
Shots on target: Chelsea 6 United 5
Corners: Chelsea 5 United 6
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro (Chalobah 71), Diego Costa (Batshuayi 78), Hazard (Willian 78). Subs not used: Begovic, Aina, Terry, Oscar.
Booked: Luiz, Pedro, Alonso
United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling (c), Bailly (Rojo 52), Blind; Fellaini (Mata 46), Herrera; Rashford, Pogba, Lingard (Martial 65); Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: Romero, Darmian, Carrick, Young.
Booked: Bailly, Pogba