Manchester United’s return to an empty Old Trafford ended up becoming a memorable Premier League encounter as they secured a convincing 3-0 victory over Sheffield United.
Anthony Martial netted all three goals in the game in a much-awaited hat-trick. The Frenchman could have had four to his name had he chosen not to slot the ball to Marcus Rashford early on and instead lobbed it over the keeper. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was instrumental in creating Martial’s second goal while Rashford assisted the other two.
1. Pogba and Fernandes start together
Much prior to Martial’s scintillating hattrick, the sight that caught the eye of Manchester United supporters across the globe was their starting lineup.
This was the first time that Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba had started a game together professionally and the result was there for all too see. While neither of the two maestros were directly involved in any of the three goals, their catalyzing presence was immense.
In fact, for Martial’s second goal, it was a clever Fernandes pass to Pogba that initiated the ball to Wan-Bissaka who was excellent in delivering it to Martial.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hungry for more of the same.
2. Martial hat-trick
With the hat-trick, Martial has now netted 14 goals already in the Premier League this campaign, with his competition-wide tally going up to 19. This was his first career hat-trick and incidentally was also Manchester United’s first Premier League ha-trick since 2013 which came via Robin van Persie back when Sir Alex Ferguson was still at the helm of the side.
The Red Devils have been eager for such a performance for quite a while now. With the confidence of the attacking trident and the kind of creative prowess they have at the midfield, several more are bound to be in the works.
3. Sheffield weak without Henderson
Sheffield United certainly looked to be a wounded side. While their attacking shortcomings have been a recurring issue, this poor defensive outing could be due to a glaring absence.
Dean Henderson wasn’t able to play the game as Manchester United is his parent club from whom he is on loan. As such, it was Simon Moore who proved to be toothless to do anything about Martial’s barrage of shots at goal.
Henderson remains the joint-best keeper in the League, with 11 cleansheets to his name and his absence was throughly felt on Wednesday.
4. United 13 games unbeaten. Top 5 dynamics looking ripe
With this win, Manchester United have now gone 13 games unbeaten across all competitions, their finest form since 2017. The three points secured have taken them to within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who still have a game in hand.
Results elsewhere mean that Wolverhampton Wanderers are tied on points with Solskjaer’s side with goal difference keeping the Old Trafford outfit on fifth. Jose Mourinho’s Spurs have a slight chance below with 45 points.
5. Sheffield’s magical spell over?
With this defeat, quite a dent may have been placed on Sheffield United’s hopes this season. Prior to the lockdown, European football for next campaign looked like a certainty but the inability to score a single goal in the three games since resumption is a massive worry as is the fact that they have dropped 8 points out of an available 9.
The heavy dynamics beneath them could realistically mean that if they don’t amend their attacking flaws, a finish out of the top 10 could be glaring at them unexpectedly come August.