Frank Lampard suffered his first heavy defeat as Chelsea manager on the opening day of the season at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford.
It was anything but the dream return to the Premier League for the former Chelsea player, as he watched his side fall victim to a 4-0 blitzing.
Using one of the oldest clichés in football, it was a game of two halves, and the first half was all Chelsea. The Blues hit the woodwork twice and flashed the ball across the goal line too many times to count.
However, it was Man United who took the lead after their first and only real opportunity of the first half. Kurt Zouma brought down Marcus Rashford as he looked to cut inside; he got up to take, and score, the penalty himself.
The manner of the defeat left an overriding sense of frustration on the Chelsea manager's mind.
He said: “We were clearly the better team for 45, maybe 60 minutes, but what was evident was we made individual errors that led to four goals out of their five shots. There’s the harsh reality for us.
“If we go in half-time 2-1 or 3-1 up, as we probably should have done, if we were more clinical ourselves and had maybe a stroke of luck here and there, the game would be completely different.
“What I felt on the pitch and in the dressing room afterwards, and although the players are obviously disappointed, there were lots and lots of elements of the game I liked. There were four or five elements I really didn’t like, and they proved fatal for us.
“What the fans want to see, and why they were clapping and very respectful at the end, was because they saw a team trying to do the right thing. The game went against us very quickly when the second and third goals went in, and that was the harsh lesson for my young team today.”
A few positives
The positives to take from the game, Lampard suggested, weren’t as scarce as you might assume they would be following a 4-0 defeat.
Instead Lampard praised a few individual performances, particularly in the first half and reemphasised that their only undoing was their own mistakes and the clinical finishing of the opposition.
“It was the control of the game. We were intense in our pressure in the first half,” said Lampard. “For big spells they didn’t really get out against us. We won the ball back high in lots of areas, be it Mason or Pedro. I thought Jorginho and Kovacic dominated the midfield in the first half and switched the play as we wanted to switch it.
“But football is won and lost in the boxes. They won in our box by being clinical. We had so many more shots and attacking entries than them, and that was where we let ourselves down by not putting them away.
“It is quite hard to talk about it after a 4-0, you can sound stupid, but anyone who watched the game will have seen that. It gets overrided by the fact we gave them opportunities to score and they took them.”
Many believed that Chelsea’s expensive new signing Christian Pulisic would have been a sure starter in Lampard’s team, but even he was left on the bench.
After the game, Lampard explained why he opted with Mason Mount, Ross Barkley and Pedro.
He said: “Christian Pulisic is 20 years old. He will be a fantastic player for the club. He has got great ability. You saw little moments with his acceleration on the ball.
“But I have also got other options in midfield and in those areas, and I don’t want to stick Christian straight into the fire without trying to help him along the way. It was one of those games where I felt it was better to start with Ross and Mason, who have been very strong in pre-season, and bring Christian on.
“If the game had carried on at 1-0, or we were back in the game as we should have been, he would have been a great injection. In the end it was difficult for him because the game went quickly away from us.”
Finally, Lampard believes that hard lessons must be learned from their disappointing opener and is sure his team have the quality and mental strength to bounce back. Their next game is away from Premier League football in the Super Cup against Champions League winners Liverpool.
“In terms of the squad we know we couldn’t bring players in this summer. I believe we have really talented young players,“ affirmed Lampard, referring to the transfer ban. “Let’s be clear: with the injuries we have at the moment, and not bringing in players, this is going to be a work in progress to a degree. We will have to learn harsh lessons and correct them pretty quickly.
“We will bounce back from this. It should hurt. We certainly don’t want to lose anywhere 4-0, and it hurts, but this isn’t a 4-0 like any other. We certainly shouldn’t let it consume us to the point it has any effect on us going forward, other than analysing the mistakes and correcting them.”