Neil Humphreys: New signings make Manchester United fun to watch again
New signings make the Red Devils fun to watch again
Daniel James hit the sweet spot, in every sense. He didn't just celebrate, he screamed.
And Old Trafford screamed with him.
Here was a rare opportunity for the Theatre of Dreams to live up to its name.
A Manchester United new boy, scoring on his debut, really was the stuff of dreamy, comic books.
Surely, the hardest of sporting hearts softened in that moment.
Four goals, three successful debuts, two attacking forwards and a parched Chelsea left the new Red Devils singing like the old United.
Yes, the 4-0 score-line flattered but, when James struck the fourth, the deja vu was unmistakable.
United used to be loved and loathed for such emphatic displays, back when new signings slotted in seamlessly and the red bandwagon rolled on.
Last season, the Red Devils were too inconsistent to be loved and too irrelevant to be loathed. It was hard to care either way.
But we'll take a keen interest this season. James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire already had our curiosity. Now, they have our attention.
The combined £145 million (S$243m) spent on their signatures looks a shrewd investment.
At 21, Wan-Bissaka pulled off the remarkable feat of being so assured, quick and intelligent that there was nothing overly surprising about his surprising performance.
He created the illusion of being a United veteran in his first game, scampering along the touchline as if he'd occupied the territory for years.
He took care of Emerson, cleaned up when Paul Pogba lost possession and chipped in with six tackles, three interceptions and five clearances.
Since Gary Neville's retirement, the right-back position has tested a number of candidates. The vacancy might be finally filled.
Of course, there were no surprises with the other guy.
Despite missing a week of training, Maguire's authority was enough for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to leave Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo out of the squad.
Maguire treated his United debut in the same way he treated England's unexpected run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, as if he'd joined his pub regulars in a five-a-side in the nearby carpark.
He won every header. His distribution was efficient and his neat interception started the move that ended in United's second goal, a telling contribution.
Maguire makes his presence felt at both ends.
His budding relationship with Victor Lindelof belonged in a romantic show. One completed the other.
In recent years, United's centre-back pairings suggested they were thrown together after meeting the night before on Tinder.
But Maguire and Lindelof are developing the kind of understanding that should leave their side less reliant on David de Gea.
Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and even James, who impressed in his goal-scoring cameo, are crucial additions to Solskjaer's "risk-and-reward" play.
The United manager has repeated his "risk-and-reward" broken record almost as much as the one about Sir Alex Ferguson's legacy, but he has staked his coaching career on his need for speed.
Faster, fitter forwards were in evidence at Old Trafford, but their success rests, to a certain extent, on the newcomers.
Wan-Bissaka was involved in several lightning raids, one of which led to Marcus Rashford's exquisite second goal.
But the key pass - the pass of the game, in fact - came from Paul Pogba.
The Frenchman owed his newfound attacking freedom to the no-nonsense Englishman behind him.
Maguire and Lindelof's reliability allows Pogba to relinquish some of the defensive duties that he clearly has little time for.
Previously, he was dragged back out of necessity.
United kept only two clean sheets in last season's league matches at Old Trafford.
Every time Pogba turned towards his own goal, he seemed to be searching for the exit.
He may still leave. But Pogba revelled in his role against Chelsea, having been given a licence to roam, knowing that United's defensive improvements were enough - just - to ensure an opening-day clean sheet.
Wan-Bissaka and James also offered something extra in attack, serving as the poster boys for Solskjaer's fitter regimen.
United's manager understands the perilous nature of his "risk-and-reward" counter-attacking strategy (Chelsea were unlucky not to score at least twice).
But Maguire will outwit opponents at the back. James can outlast opponents up front. And Wan-Bissaka is blessed with the pedigree to do both.
It's early days, but the first day was a joyful one at Old Trafford.
An uplifting glimpse of the future conjured warm memories of the past.
United are fun to watch again.
The new boys won't win every game 4-0, but they are worthy of repeat viewing.