Debrief: Are Man United 'back'? Could Chelsea be everyone's new second team?

FourFourTwo's James Maw on the weekend's Premier League shenanigans...

New Manchester United look their old selves

It seems a little odd, given the vast changes at the club over the summer, but perhaps for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson announced he was leaving Old Trafford back in May 2013, Manchester United spent 90 minutes looking like Manchester United.

Sure, 'it was only QPR', but there can be no denying some of the less tangible qualities that made United what they were for so long seemed to have returned.

The old swagger was back (Gary Neville perhaps more accurately described it as 'arrogance'). The unrelenting desire to 'attack, attack, attack' was back. The confidence to try something out of the ordinary and get bums off seats was back. Heck, even the shot Ander Herrera swept into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to make it 2-0 had a whiff of Paul Scholes about it.

Most of all, Angel Di Maria looked like a player worthy of the famous No.7 shirt (well, more than Michael Owen or Antonia Valencia, at least). The Argentine may have enjoyed some good fortune - his goal was probably a cross and his assist was probably a skewed shot - but that was really just reward for his persistent direct running and intricate passing.

Speaking after the game, Louis van Gaal was quick to praise his new players - not only Di Maria, but also Marcos Rojo, second-half substitute Radamel Falcao, and Daley Blind - the latter of whom was superb at keeping things constantly ticking over in the middle third of the pitch.

"I said before the game 'let's make a new start'," the Dutchman told MUTV after his first win as United manager. "That's important as after September 1st, after the transfer period, we can now work on a team-building process and make ourselves better every week – we have done it, I believe.

"I think the new players fitted in very well. It's always difficult to come in and adapt to the rhythm of the Premier League but they did very well - not only Di Maria."

It's certainly worth repeating that 'it was only QPR', and the visitors offered very little to trouble United at either end of the pitch, but the signs suggest Van Gaal's side are once again capable of mastering the fundamentals.

Manchester United 4-0 QPR: Analyse this match with Stats Zone
 

Chelsea: Everybody's new second favourite team?

Four matches, 15 goals scored, six conceded and a whole load of brilliant football along the way. The early signs point to Chelsea's 2014/15 vintage being far easier on the eye than many of their previous incarnations.

Who wouldn't enjoy watching a team which includes the wizardry of Eden Hazard, the mastery of Cesc Fabregas and the hurly-burly penalty box power play of Diego Costa, a striker who already looks the perfect fit, not only for Chelsea, but the Premier League.

Sure, the Spanish striker may not be entirely averse to indulging in some of the game's darker arts, but he does at least have that Fergie-esque habit of celebrating every goal with the gay abandon of a giddy school boy on 'teacher training day'. Scoring first and shutting up shop no longer seems to be order of the day in SW6.

Yet Chelsea's new-found willingness to shake off the shackles may be borne as much out of necessity as desire. The Blues don't exactly look solid at the back at present; they've needed seven of the 10 goals they've scored in their last two games just to secure maximum points.

After shipping three at Everton last time out, Jose Mourinho's side presented Swansea with enough opportunities to score at least the same number this time around. Having been handed an early lead when John Terry bundled into his own net, Swansea were gift-wrapped more opportunities in the second half. Bafetimbi Gomis beat a half-arsed offside trap before being denied by Thibaut Courtois, only for Jonjo Shelvey to punish similar indiscipline minutes later by slotting home when Terry had gone walkabout.

Playing fantastic football, scoring loads of great goals and defending like idiots seems to have made Arsenal pretty popular down the years - so could Chelsea be about to become everyone's second favourite team...?

Probably not, but it's still fun to watch.

Chelsea 4-2 Swansea: Analyse this match with Stats Zone
 

Villa finding the right balance

Few teams will be happier with the first month of their season than Aston Villa. Despite a turgid home draw with an evidenly hapless Newcastle and a League Cup defeat to League One Leyton Orient, the mood at Villa Park is as perky as it's been in a few years.

Ten points from four league matches leave Villa second in the early season standings, with Saturday evening's win at Liverpool the undoubted highlight.

Their success thus far has been built on a solid defence - some departure for a team who conceded 60+ goals in each of the last two seasons. The additions of Aly Cissokho at left-back and the return of the previously ostracised Alan Hutton at right-back have brought more experience, composure and balance to a back-line that has seen no end of chopping and changing in recent years.

With the ever-improving Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood playing ahead of them, Villa are starting to look a tough nut to crack - with their organised pressing at Anfield particularly impressive. And all this without currently crocked star man Christian Benteke, who'll improve their attacking play no end.

Villa's next four matches may come against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, but given their continuing knack of troubling the elite, there's no reason to suggest an immediate slump is a certainty. Could the West Midlands side be this season's surprise package?

Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa: Analyse this match with Stats Zone
 

Wilshere may be in too deep

Jack Wilshere's superb second half goal and assist against Man City were described as 'one in the eye for the doubters', yet the midfielder's ability has never been in doubt - the issue has been how often he imposes himself on games like Saturday's clash with the champions.

That's not necessarily his fault, either. When Wilshere first burst on to the scene he looked for all the world like a natural No.10 but, given Arsenal have so many players of whom that could be said, the England midfielder has been largely forced to play in a deeper role that perhaps isn't as good a match for his skillset.

If Saturday showed anything, it's that he's more than capable of loitering in and around the penalty area, displaying the kind of composure required to score and assist in any match. So should Arsene Wenger shuffle his pack and give Wilshere a shot in that role?

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes, speaking on BT Sport in his surprising role as the new Robbie Savage, suggested Wenger could do more to help nurture Wilshere's talents.

"I think he's a frustrated figure at the moment," Scholes said of the Gunners midfielder. "He's trying to force the play.

"[Wenger] has to be blamed, he's the manager. I don't know how much work he does with [Wilshere], but I'm not sure he does enough.

"He has fallen so far behind Aaron Ramsey. They're trying to find a position for him and I don't know what it is."

Arsenal 2-2 Man City: Analyse this match with Stats Zone
 

Tottenham trio coming good

Spurs may have been left frustrated by Sunderland's late equaliser at the Stadium of Light, but there was plenty about which to be positive - most notably the performance of their attacking midfield trio, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli.

The three players - all signed last summer - spent just 10 minutes on the pitch together over the whole of last season (the final 10 minutes of a 3-0 win over Stoke in December), but have shown early-season signs of being a cohesive and dangerous attacking unit.

They all exchange positions, and all bring something different to the table. Eriksen is most likely to drop deep and look for the subtle pass, Chadli is most likely to make a late run into the penalty area and worry the opposition goalkeeper, while Lamela is most likely to make with the flicks and tricks.

Both Eriksen and Chadli scored on Saturday, with Lamela coming close to joining them on the scoresheet by rattling a 20-yard strike against the woodwork. The most heartening thing for the club's fans will be the fact their team are once again looking to play positive, attacking football - a departure from the more cautious and considered approach favoured by Andre Villas-Boas.

Sunderland 2-2 Tottenham: Analyse this match with Stats Zone

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