Image from soccer highlights.net
Today Manchester United returned to Old Trafford for the first time since football returned. Their opponents were Sheffield United, who before the break were defying expectations and currently sit in sixth place only two points behind The Reds. However The Blades have struggled in their first two games since resuming the season only picking up a solitary point against a relegation threatened Aston Villa side. On the other hand United were hoping to build on their encouraging second half performance against Tottenham Hotspur in the 1-1 draw last Friday evening.
The game today was played in very warm conditions, with temperatures predicted to reach up to 32 degrees, conditions that would have been challenging for all the players involved as they look to find their match fitness and rhythm. It was vital for United to try and take all three points if they are to maintain realistic hopes of finishing in the top four and United’s hopes of a win were boosted when the teamsheets were submitted and The Reds lined up with both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in midfield. The thought of a Fernandes-Pogba partnership is something that has excited United fans since the Portuguese maestro joined in January and today was the day we would see it from the start. In other interesting team news United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also gave a start to the young promising striker Mason Greenword who was joined in attack by Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
United started the game strongly in the opening stages, moving the ball around nicely and picking holes in Sheffield United’s formation and looking dangerous with some nice one touch play in and around the opposition’s box. United got the early breakthrough they craved in the seventh minute and in doing so became the first Premier League team to score in the inside the first ten minutes of a game since the Premier League restarted. A well worked throw-in down the right-hand side between Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Rashford led to the latter getting the better of two Sheffield United players before getting to the by-line and delivering a fierce low cross that Martial reacted quickest to at the near post to put United ahead.
The French striker got his and United’s second goal of the day on the stoke of half time which would have have been a massive blow to United’s South Yorkshire opponents. Once again The Reds built down the right side where they looked dangerous all game. The move finished with Wan-Bissaka beating the opposite full-back and sliding a low cross in to a dangerous area where Martial was there to meet it and finish with aplomb.
All through the second half United controlled the game with plenty of progressive possession and more great one touch play between the midfield and attack. Players like Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford and Co had the freedom off the Old Trafford pitch and with every pass the United players completed you could see the energy and confidence draining from their willing opponents. With fifteen minutes remaining Martial became the first United player to score a hat-trick since Robin Van Persie in 2013. His third goal was arguably the best of the lot! After a move that started with Pogba playing a great pass to Fernandes, who then moved it on to Martial who played a neat one-two with Rashford and the Frenchman rounded off the well worked move with a beautiful chipped finish and completed his first hat trick for the club.
United were fantastic today, they looked solid all around the pitch the Pogba and Fernandes partnership as mentioned earlier showed promising signs and while those two midfielders alongside Martial will undoubtedly grab all the headlines it’s important to give praise to the performance of Nemanja Matic. The Serbian also had a great game shielding the back four and starting many of United’s attacks with passes that were breaking lines and moving the team up the pitch. United will now turn their attentions to the weekend and the FA Cup where they travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich City, where they will hope to take step closer towards achieving some silverware this season.