Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Alexis Sanchez must build on return to scoring form

Greg Lea reflects on Saturday's Premier League action and a return to goalscoring form for three players who have struggled to replicate last season's prolific exploits.

Harry Kane appeared to be marginally offside, but he deserves credit for reacting quickest to guide the ball past Willy Caballero. Julian Finney / Getty Images
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It is rare in the modern era for the Premier League’s big six to be in action on the same day, so there was always likely to be plenty of talking points from England’s top flight when Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur all took to the field within the space of a few hours on Saturday.

The above sextet spent close to £450 million (Dh2.5 billion) on new signings in the summer as they attempted to get an edge on one another ahead of the upcoming domestic campaign.

It was three stars of last season who grabbed many of the headlines, however. Wayne Rooney (999 minutes), Harry Kane (640) and Alexis Sanchez (873) all broke goal droughts that had gone on for far too long to help their respective sides pick up significant victories.

Rooney’s effort in United’s 3-0 win over Sunderland saw his name return to the scoresheet in a Premier League fixture for the first time since April.

It was hardly the tidiest of finishes, the England captain bundling in from close range on 46 minutes after some good build-up play from Anthony Martial down the right, but it could be a vital, psychological step as Rooney attempts to rediscover his touch in front of goal.

GALLERY: Man United go top, Sanchez catches fire for Arsenal, Chelsea stumble at Newcastle

Rooney, 29, has been disappointing so far this campaign. While he already had four goals in all competitions, his performances in the Premier League in particular were significantly short of the level United fans have grown accustomed to.

While Rooney, despite his goal, was still some way below his best on Saturday, he looked more comfortable in the No 10 role with Martial leading the line ahead of him. The 19-year-old Frenchman’s speed and willingness to run beyond defenders should help create space for Rooney, who has struggled so far this season when asked to play as the focal point of United’s attack by Louis van Gaal.

Kane, his England strike partner, has also struggled for goals this term. Before the weekend, the man who netted 21 times in the Premier League last time out had yet to beat a Premier League goalkeeper in 2015/16.

That unwanted record was vanquished on Saturday when he netted his team’s third in their superb 4-1 thrashing of Manchester City at White Hart Lane. Though Kane, 22, appeared to be marginally offside, he deserves credit for reacting quickest to guide the ball past Willy Caballero after Christian Eriksen’s free kick smacked against the woodwork.

Kane, like Rooney, is another who excels when there is movement around him. The recent improvement of Eric Lamela and the arrival of the dynamic Son Heung-min should help to bring out the best in the Tottenham centre-forward.

The most emphatic response, though, came from Alexis Sanchez, who took home the match ball after scoring three times in Arsenal’s 5-2 triumph over Leicester City.

Since the Chilean tends to be deployed out wide rather than as a centre-forward, goals should not be the principal measure of his contribution to the team.

Nevertheless, with Sanchez scoring on 16 occasions in the Premier League in 2014/15, a run without one at the start of the current campaign was cause for concern. The former Barcelona player’s treble, which included a terrific long-range effort late on, saw him announce his return to form in spectacular style.

A dry patch in front of goal can lead to a depressing lack of confidence when chances present themselves.

Moreover, since much of a forward’s work is instinctive, overthinking situations, a natural consequence of the loss of self-belief, can work to a player’s detriment when it comes to finishing moves off.

Getting off the mark will have done Rooney, Kane and Sanchez the world of good. The key now is to build on their first strikes of the season and ensure their next run without a goal is not long enough to be labelled a drought.