AP Sports Writer
Free-scoring, tight at the back, and confidence oozing through the side, Manchester United already might be the team to beat in the English Premier League.
United hasn’t challenged for the title since winning its record-extending 20th championship in 2013, Alex Ferguson’s last year in charge. But back-to-back 4-0 wins has sent a powerful early season message to its rivals.
Swansea was on the end of United’s power and new-found clinical edge on Saturday. Eric Bailly scored in the first half then Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all netted in a devastating four-minute passage from the 80th.
“There was happiness in our play,” United manager Jose Mourinho said. “There was no need to close the door. Just let the horses run freely, and they were magnificent.”
Liverpool squeezed past Crystal Palace 1-0, Arsenal lost at Stoke 1-0, and there were comfortable first wins of the season for Leicester and Watford.
United’s performance stood out, though, six days after its 4-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford.
As United’s attackers poured forward in the final 10 minutes, scoring at will and in stylish fashion too, memories flooded back to the entertaining teams that Ferguson molded. United was profligate last season, the lowest scorer by far in the top seven with 54, but that seems to be a thing of the past in Mourinho’s second year in charge.
“36 more games like this please,” United midfielder Juan Mata tweeted.
It is the first time in 110 years that United has scored at least four goals in each of its opening two games of a season. Tougher tests await Mourinho’s side, however.
Here’s a look at other results on a day when players in the Premier League wore black armbands as a mark of respect following the attacks in Spain this week.
MANE TO THE RESCUE
With transfer-seeking Philippe Coutinho still absent, Sadio Mane was Liverpool’s inspiration in the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Mane capitalized on a defensive mix-up to prod home a 73rd-minute winner at Anfield and score for the second straight league game. Liverpool started the season with a 3-3 draw at Watford.
Coutinho was again missing – officially because of a back injury – a day after Barcelona had a third bid rejected by Liverpool for the Brazil playmaker. He has requested a transfer but Liverpool says he is not for sale.
Liverpool made five changes ahead of the second leg of its Champions League playoff against Hoffenheim on Wednesday, with record signing Mo Salah starting on the bench.
JESE’S DEBUT GOAL
Jese joined Stoke on loan this week to relaunch his career after an underwhelming spell at Paris Saint-Germain, and the Spanish forward began life in England by scoring a winner against Arsenal on his debut.
The former Real Madrid player exchanged passes with Saido Berahino before slotting home a low finish in the 47th minute, sealing a 1-0 victory. Jese was given a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 71st.
Arsenal dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge, a week after scoring four goals in beating Leicester.
Riyad Mahrez wants to leave Leicester, and his performance in the 2-0 win over Brighton must have impressed potential suitors of the Algeria winger
Mahrez had a hand in both goals, scored by Shinji Okazaki after 52 seconds and Harry Maguire in the 54th minute, and gave Brighton’s defenders a tough time at King Power Sadium.
He put in a transfer request during the offseason but Leicester hasn’t received a suitable offer for English soccer’s player of the year in 2016.
HERNANDEZ DOUBLE IN VAIN
Javier Hernandez’s first goals back in English soccer proved to be in vain in 10-man West Ham’s 3-2 loss at Southampton.
The Mexico striker showed his predatory instincts by scoring two close-range goals to pull West Ham back from 2-0 down at St Mary’s stadium. Charlie Austin had the final say, converting a penalty in the third minute of injury time after Pablo Zabaleta’s foul on Maya Yoshida.
West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic was sent off for elbowing Jack Stephens with the score at 1-0.
WINS FOR WEST BROM, WATFORD
West Bromwich Albion joined Man United on six points by beating Burnley 1-0 thanks to a goal from Hal Robson-Kanu, who was also sent off.
Watford won 2-0 at Bournemouth after goals by new Brazilian signing Richarlison and Etienne Capoue.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
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