Van Persie, United beat Fulham but lose Rooney; more EPL thoughts

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1. Manchester United's attacking riches mask defensive deficiencies. Usain Bolt ran 9.63 in the Olympic 100-meter final; Robin van Persie clocked 9.46 with the Jamaican sprinter in the crowd Saturday. True, we're talking minutes and seconds in the case of the Manchester United striker, but that's still a very fast time for a first goal on a first start.

Shinji Kagawa also scored in his home debut as United sauntered then struggled to a 3-2 victory. No surprise about the destiny of the three points given Fulham's recent record at Old Trafford is the definition of futility, and United were always likely to respond forcefully to the surprise of losing their opener to Everton. But Martin Jol's men did take the lead inside three minutes through Damien Duff after a free kick clumsily conceded by makeshift defender Michael Carrick.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson insisted this week that there will be no more signings, but today the roster looked unbalanced: stacked with attackers but short in defense. Even allowing for acute injury problems at the back, it jarred to see a lineup with Wayne Rooney (later hurt), Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez on the bench while Carrick filled in unconvincingly at center back.

And when even two regulars such as David De Gea and Nemanja Vidic are going to combine for the kind of mistake that led to Fulham's second and made the latter stages very uncomfortable for United, you have to wonder how many clean sheets lie ahead. The home side was lucky it faced habitually travelsick opponents who were again without Clint Dempsey.

2. Fernando Torres believes in himself -- and in his teammates. With Didier Drogba gone and not yet replaced, Chelsea needs Torres to step up. Today he did -- by tripping over. As much as his excellent finish for Chelsea's second goal in its 2-0 win over Newcastle, Torres' tumble to win a penalty earlier in the first half showed he is far sharper now than last season. Vurnon Anita ill-advisedly left a leg dangling as the Spaniard surged into the box and fell with aplomb to leave no doubt in referee Phil Dowd's mind there was contact.

Regular penalty-taker Frank Lampard was a substitute, so Eden Hazard stepped up to score his first competitive goal for the club. Impressive on Chelsea's summer U.S, tour, the Belgian carried that form into the season and combined beautifully with Torres in first-half injury time.

On the hour, the striker even had the audacity to cross the ball by wrapping his kicking leg behind his standing leg -- a "Rabona". He is entitled to feel confident as Chelsea now has such a large cast of talented attacking midfielders that they are sure to create chance after chance for whoever plays up front.

3. Will Aston Villa's history repeat itself? Paul Lambert was well-qualified to take charge at Aston Villa: not only had he impressed at Norwich last season, but he also was not Alex McLeish. The former Birmingham City manager had become so despised by Villa loyalists that they were simply desperate to see the back of him, regardless of his successor's identity.

So while Lambert represents a new start, belief and trust among Villa's fan base is fragile and could be fleeting if this season proves to be an echo of the last. There isn't anything in Villa's transfer moves or performances to date to suggest that it's capable of improving greatly on last year's 16th-place finish.

Last week's 1-0 defeat by West Ham was followed up by an equally tepid 3-1 reverse to Everton at Villa Park. While David Moyes' side looked buoyant after its win over United, Villa was 3-0 down in the first half before mustering a single shot on target.

Villa last opened a league season with two defeats in 2002-03. That year, it ended up 16th.

4. West Brom scuppers Andre Villas-Boas again. Tottenham is known for conducting dramatic transfer business just before the summer window slams shut, and its followers will hope there is more to come even after acquiring Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City this week.

Fired by Chelsea after defeat by West Bromwich Albion last season, new Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas suffered more frustration against the Baggies as a late equalizer denied him his first win at White Hart Lane.

With Luka Modric still waiting to join Real Madrid, Tottenham will be a distracted work in progress until the start of next month. But if the club has hopes of emulating last season's top-four finish, it needs to gel quickly. After this 1-1 outcome and an opening loss to Newcastle, Villas-Boas' honeymoon period will likely be over if Tottenham cannot beat Norwich at home next Saturday.

5. Wild weather. After an Olympic Games that celebrated the best of British traditions, Saturday showcased one of the worst: terrible weather on a public holiday weekend. Few will be at work on Bank Holiday Monday, but Sunderland and Reading were forced to take today off after severe rain in the build-up to kickoff rendered the Stadium of Light pitch unplayable. In August. For its first game of the season.

A west London deluge forced a pregame pitch inspection at Stamford Bridge. In League Two, Wycombe versus Bristol Rovers was abandoned due to bad weather after 63 minutes with the away team 3-1 up.

And spare some sympathy for the players and fans of Hartlepool, who endured congestion rather than a downpour. The League One outfit had a 270-mile journey to East London to face Leyton Orient, whose stadium is a stone's throw from the Olympic Park.

Despite staying overnight in a nearby hotel, Hartlepool never made it: the team bus got stuck in severe London traffic, and the referee postponed the fixture after the players still hadn't turned up 20 minutes after the scheduled kickoff time. If only soccer clubs had access to private lanes like the Olympic VIPs.

Robin van Persie

Ruud van Nistelrooy pounced from close range. Thierry Henry hurtled towards goal like a bullet train then curled in a diagonal shot. If there's a trademark Van Persie strike, it might be one like the goal he scored today -- no doubt the first of many in United's colors. Impeccable technique and timing as he used the pace of the cross to guide the ball high into the far corner with an elegant flick on the half-volley.

Wayne Rooney's injury

Incidents like this will make Ferguson feel that he is right to stockpile forwards. In injury time at Old Trafford, Rooney flew in with characteristic gusto to dispossess Hugo Rodallega, they clashed and the bloodied United forward had to be stretchered off with an ugly gash just above his right knee. He looked like a cast member from a slasher movie, but the contact was clearly accidental. Ferguson said Rooney had gone to a hospital and would be sidelined for four weeks, in which case he will miss England's first two World Cup qualifiers next month.