The Premier LeagueÂ continuedÂ this weekend, with the first Friday night football of the new campaign.
In case you missed the action, we’ve compiled five talking points from the latest roundÂ of fixtures.
1. Friday night football could actually catch on
Zlatan Ibrahimovic did his best to upstage Paul Pogba’s homecoming as Old Trafford played host to top-flight football under the floodlights to kick the weekend’s action off in style. While it might not be the traditionalist’s cup of tea, Premier League games on a Friday night look here to stay and the unfamiliar start time did little to dampen either the atmosphere or the quality on show…well from United at least.
Ibrahimovic is already a cult hero with the Stretford End faithful and continued to grow that status with a double salvo, the second from the penalty spot. United bossÂ Jose Mourinho hailedÂ Â£89million-manÂ Pogba as “fantastic” on a return someÂ 1,616 days after his last appearance in a red shirt. Fans will be hoping their new-look team will go as they have started, which would keep the noisy neighbours quiet. Roll on September 16 andÂ Chelsea v Liverpool for another Friday night spectacular, well maybe…
2. Possession might just not be king
So, Geggenpressing is the way forwards eh? So much forÂ 81% of possession and 26 shots as Liverpool went down 2-0 at Burnley, who never looked like being broken down after taking control through first-half goals from Sam Vokes and Andre Gray. The match was originally scheduled for Anfield but switched due to the ongoing ground refurbishment.
Might the result have been different if played in Liverpool’s own backyard? Maybe, but full credit toÂ Clarets boss Sean Dyche, who got his team so well-organised they secured a hard-earned victory with the lowest amount of the ball since the stats were first recordedÂ in season 2003-04. Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said the result shows his team “do not look like we are 100% fine-tuned” – leaving more unanswered questions after the euphoria which followed an opening-day win at Arsenal.
3. Hull are up for the fight
Given all the upheaval on the eve of the new campaign back in the Premier League, to win the first two matches is some achievement for interim Hull manager Mike Phelan. Whether Steve Bruce’s old pal and Sir Alex Ferguson’s former right-hand man gets the gig at The KCOM Stadium full-time remains to be seen. While seeing off defending champions Leicester at home on the opening day may have produced plenty of analysis of why the Foxes did not get things right, the Tigers certainly did everything which was asked of them in the 2-0 win at Swansea.
Sure, tougher challenges lay ahead over the next 36 games, but asÂ LeicesterÂ themselves have shown, a good start can build momentum. Staying up is set to be a battle for whoever is installed in the manager’s hot-seat, but the players – all of someÂ 13 senior pros eligible – seem to have let the boardroom know what they think. It will be interesting to see if the message gets through.
4. Pep can win at Stoke… On a sunny Saturday lunchtime anyway
But can he do it on a nippy November day in Burnley? Two late goals fromÂ Nolito perhaps gave the final scoreline a flattering look, but there is no doubt that City under Guardiola look a much slicker outfit than last season. That is even without England number one Joe Hart between the posts as striker Sergio Aguero showed little hangover from his misgivings inÂ Bucharest. Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot for a shirt pull not many saw apart from the man who mattered, which could throw up a few more interesting post-match comments from not only the Spanish coach.
With the second leg of the Champions League tie against Steau a formality, see off West Ham next Sunday and that would really set things up nicely for the small matter of a trip to OId Trafford and a no doubt warm welcome from Jose.
5. Could be another long season ahead at Sunderland
They may have enjoyed bragging rights over Newcastle after completing the ‘Great Escape’ under Sam Allardyce last season, but there remains work to be done if David Moyes is going to avoid his Sunderland side enduring the same battle to stay away from the relegation dogfight.
A firstÂ Wear-Tees league derby in seven-and-a-half years was settled by two goals fromÂ Cristhian Stuani, theÂ Uruguayan forward brought in from Espanyol, helped in no small part by the contribution of fellow summer recruit Alvaro Negredo.
Booed off at half-time, at least there was improvement in the second half – no doubt following Moyes’ own hair-dryer treatment – and but for some better luck, the Black Cats could even have salvaged an unlikely draw. Sunderland need an injection of fresh talent, and fast, or will keep looking over their shoulders.