Premier League title contenders: BBC pundits' first impressions

 

Champions Manchester City and big summer spenders Arsenal and Liverpool all enjoyed victories on the opening weekend.

But the big spotlight was on how decorated Dutch manager Louis van Gaal would fare in the his first league match in charge of Manchester United.

BBC football pundits share their first impressions of all four of the title challengers.

Manchester United Manager Louis van Gaal

Van Gaal received a warm welcome from the United fans

'Man Utd need three world-class players'

  • Van Gaal's Man Utd reign starts with defeat
  • United's first opening-day loss at home since 1972
  • Swansea's first league win at Man Utd

The first game: Louis van Gaal's first league game in charge of Manchester United sees his team stumble to a 2-1 defeat at home by Swansea. Having finished seventh last season, the 20-time champions have already spent almost £60m on bringing in England full-back Luke Shaw and Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera and hired a new manager - will that be enough to make them title challengers again?

Van Gaal takes responsibility for defeat

Former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer: "As poor a result as that was, it could be a blessing. It says to the money men they need three world-class players and big money needs to be spent to get back into top four, never mind challenge for the championship. They left it so late to sign players last season, they were found wanting.

"Whether they were playing three, four or five at the back they weren't good enough against the Welsh side."

The manager's view

Louis van Gaal: "When you have preparation, win everything, then lose your first match, it cannot be worse. We have built up a lot of confidence. It will be smashed because of this."

Former Red Devils player and coach Phil Neville: "Manchester United's defeat by Swansea didn't surprise me. This is a team that finished seventh last season and were without nine players. Yesterday only confirmed that United need to invest and invest well."

Former Netherlands midfielder and Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit: "Fellow Dutchman Van Gaal has a big job. The Premier League is different. You can see during the game the United players were thinking about where they had to be. When he played 3-5-2 for Netherlands it was necessity because we had bad defenders. He played 4-3-3 at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but always played attacking football. It was a surprise he played 3-5-2 to start with against Swansea, but then he changed it. If you were a Swansea player would you have been afraid of that line-up?"

Former Manchester City defender Danny Mills: "They're miles off the Champions League. I made my predictions that United will do well to finish fifth if they make signings. The quality simply is not there. Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata yes, but what is behind them?

"Executive vice-president Ed Woodward took an awful lot of flak last year for not getting the signings in. Surely they are not going to make the same mistake again?"

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy: "They had injuries for this game, but they haven't replaced their big characters like Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand yet. The quality they bring now is imperative. It will cost them a lot of money."

Social media reaction

Jamaica's Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt and United fan:  It's not how you start it's how you finish..long season ahead of us..let's get it together lads

Former Manchester City player Rodney Marsh:  Burnley already 3 places above Manchester United

Aaron Ramsey scored for Arsenal

Aaron Ramsey pounced from close range to score the Gunners' winner on Saturday

'Arsenal need £40m Ramsey fit'

  • Arsenal leave it late to open season with win
  • Ramsey scores third goal in four league games
  • Arsenal win first opening weekend fixture in five attempts

The first game: It was a struggle at times for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, but some good fortune late in the game gave them a 2-1 opening-day victory against Crystal Palace. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey, whose goals helped the Gunners lead the league for much of the first half of last season, scored the winner in stoppage time.

The manager's view

Arsene Wenger: "If you look at Saturday's results, no home team won - we were the only one so it shows in the first game it is not easy to win."

Desire got us through - Arsene Wenger

Shearer: "Arsenal got the result, but they didn't play well - Palace frustrated them. They made so many errors from their big players. It was poor from them. Normally Arsenal's passing is crisp and sharp, but the big positive thing is they kept going. Surely they can't play as poorly as this for a long time.

"Ramsey is a £40m player now. He was a guy they missed more than anything last season (when he was injured in December 2013 and out for three months). If they keep him and the vast majority fit they will have a right good go at the title. I've been impressed with their summer signings, particularly Chile forward Alexis Sanchez. They have to get better results against the big teams than they managed last season."

Gullit: "This is a good time to win games in a bad way - it's a good sign. I hope for Arsenal they can battle for the title for as long as possible."

Former Tottenham and England striker Gary Lineker: "If Arsenal are to challenge for the title, you can talk about signing a strong midfielder, but it's a top-class striker they need most."

Social media reaction

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey:  We left it late but our season is up and running!! #AFC #3points

Midfielder Mesut Ozil:   Three points - that's the main thing! #AFCvCPFC #ThanksRamsey #Arsenal #EmiratesStadium

Television presenter and Arsenal fan Piers Morgan:  Poor game, ho-hum performance, important win.

Manchester City players

Sergio Aguero (second from right) and David Silva (right) got City off to a great start

'Man City looked the most comfortable'

  • City beat Newcastle on opening day for second successive season
  • Aguero comes off bench to score for champions
  • Aguero has scored 18 and assisted six goals in last 24 league games

The first game: Champions Manchester City, with only one new face in their starting XI as opposed to Newcastle's four, managed a relatively comfortable 2-0 win at St James' Park. Manager Manuel Pellegrini played his ace card in the closing stages - striker Sergio Aguero - who scored in stoppage time to guarantee the win.

The manager's view

Manuel Pellegrini: "I am sure this squad can fight, and we will see at the end of the season which titles we will win."

Newcastle 0-2 Man City: Manuel Pellegrini pleased with defence

Murphy: "They are not only technically gifted as a team, but they also have very physical and powerful players. New Brazilian midfield signing Fernando was absolutely immense against Newcastle. To have Fernandinho and Fernando in the middle could be important in the bigger games.

"Of the contenders we've seen so far, City looked the most comfortable. You look at their bench on Sunday - they had Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, James Milner and Sergio Aguero. It doesn't take a genius to work out that City and Chelsea will be the teams to beat."

Neville: "Fernando was someone I watched last season - almost Claude Makelele-like. He loves defending. There were some great performances, but he was probably the best. However, apart from the two goals, City didn't create too many good chances."

Ex-Celtic boss Neil Lennon: "I just love watching David Silva play, he's so easy on the eye and sometimes I think he has eyes in the back of his head with the way he brings others into the game. Newcastle created some really good chances, but it's the old adage that it's what happens in the two boxes."

Social media reaction

Striker Edin Dzeko:  Great start to the season! 3 away points and award for Man of the Match. :-) @MCFC #together #win #MOTM

Defender Vincent Kompany:  Great way to start the season. Newcastle is a hard place to go and get a win but we did it. On to the next one. #mcfc

Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge now has added responsibility in attack for following Luis Suarez's departure

'Liverpool's midfield area is a worry'

  • Liverpool's first game since Suarez left
  • Reds score for 28th time in 29 league games
  • Manquillo, Lovren and Lambert handed debuts

The first game: Liverpool did not appear to miss Luis Suarez on Sunday as they recorded a 2-1 win over Southampton at Anfield. England attacking duo Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling picked up where they left off last season with both of the Reds' goals. Brendan Rodgers' side were runners-up last season - will they go one better this time around?

The manager's view

Brendan Rodgers: "I don't think anyone has given us hope of getting in the top four. We loved the challenge last season and that is what we look to recreate."

Murphy: "Liverpool weren't as fluid and creative as they have been of recent times, but they dug in and won. There has been a lot of talk about bringing in a new striker, but it's the midfield area I'm worried about.

Liverpool had desire in abundance - Rodgers

"If Steven Gerrard gets injured then all they have is Emre Can. Someone like Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin is a player they should have a look at or a similar midfielder that has that sort of quality."

Neville: "The role of the others around Sturridge might need to change. He likes to go wide and play a little loose - it's up to the likes of Sterling to make those runs through for him.

"I would strengthen in the centre-forward department - if you're playing in the Champions League you need three or four centre forwards."

Social media reaction

Forward Raheem Sterling:   Great team win today..happy to get season off with 3 points!!

Forward Daniel Sturridge:   Teamwork always makes the dream work. Great 3 points. Dug in deep and got the result in the end. I'm a happy fella!!

Keeper Simon Mignolet:   First game of the season: three points is all what matters! #WeGoAgain #YNWA

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen:   Liverpool not at their best but a big 3 points. Mignolet great save late on. The new SAS both on target.