Here are five key talking points from the weekend’s English Premier League games:
New season, same story for United
Was it really such a surprise that the Manchester United of this season performed just like the team that struggled so much under Ralf Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last term?
The 2-1 home defeat by Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday (Aug 7) still registers as an upset but, given Graham Potter’s side came ninth last term and continue to produce an enterprising, collective style of football, it was hardly a shock.
In the close season, United needed more work and a bigger turnover of players than any of the five teams that finished above them last term yet they have done less significant recruitment than any of them.
Erik ten Hag began his first game in charge with the central midfield pairing of Scott McTominay and Fred, which has never looked capable of being top class.
With Cristiano Ronaldo’s future uncertain and Anthony Martial injured, ten Hag had to play without a recognised centre-forward and, despite long-standing concerns over the right-back position, Diogo Dalot was given another chance to convince.
United’s approach to recruitment has been panned by critics over recent years and the past few months have only served to show that little has changed.
City show no trouble ‘adapting’ to Haaland
One of the questions raised during the close-season transfer activities was could champions Manchester City adapt to playing with a classic ‘No. 9’ in Norwegian Erling Haaland?
After their new signing from Borussia Dortmund scored twice on his Premier League debut in a 2-0 win at West Ham United, the answer is blatantly clear: City not only adapted but clearly now have an additional weapon in their arsenal.
Haaland is a traditional striker in the sense that he is tall and powerful in the air but, as he showed with his superb finish for the second goal, he has pace and excellent technique too.
His ratio of a goal-a-game in the Bundesliga may be a tough challenge to maintain in England but who would really bet against him maintaining that prolific rate?
Nunez ready to evolve into Liverpool’s attacking threat
Perhaps the only silver lining for Liverpool as they limped to a 2-2 draw at Fulham on Saturday was the performance of Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez, who provided a creative spark from the bench – scoring one goal and creating another.
The introduction of the 23-year-old caused chaos in the Fulham defence as he combined well with Mohamed Salah after a toothless first half from last season’s runners-up.
If Nunez can continue to deliver on the promise he showed on Saturday, Sadio Mane’s move to Bayern Munich will soon be forgotten, as will this stuttering start to the season at Craven Cottage.
Villa have work to do after disappointing show
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard was left frustrated by their performance at Bournemouth after the Birmingham club dominated possession but lacked quality in the final third, suffering a 2-0 defeat.
Villa’s expensively assembled team looked sluggish throughout, registering only two shots on target from their total of 15.
Playmaker Philippe Coutinho could do very little, while striker Danny Ings also failed to make an impact.
“We didn’t look like creating, which is on me and on us and it’s a big area that we need to improve upon,” Gerrard said.
“When I watch it back, I’ll see a lot of possession, a lot of control and us moving up the pitch into the right areas but that last pass, that last cross and the inventive spark was miles off.”
Comeback kings Brentford show heart again
Only Liverpool (20) earned more points than Brentford (15) from losing positions last season as the Bees had a happy knack of turning games on their head.
They did it again on Sunday as they rallied from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Leicester City, the first time the Foxes have given up a two-goal home advantage in the Premier League since 2003.
But while Brentford manager Thomas Frank may look at that as a positive, he will be worried by the fact that his side gave up the first goal on 25 occasions last season, and did so again at the King Power Stadium.
It is one thing to show heart and desire to snatch points from losing positions, but they would not be in the position to have to do so if they made a better start to games.