Man Utd kick off league campaign with evisceration of Leeds
Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba ran the show as the Red Devils trounced old rivals Leeds United 5-1 at a jam-packed Old Trafford
Hattrick hero Bruno Fernandes became the first Manchester United player to score three goals in the opening weekend of the Premier League as Solskjaer’s men crushed Leeds United 5-1, with creator-in-chief Paul Pogba supplying an EPL record-equalling 4 assists.
Mason Greenwood and Fred chipped in with the other goals, while Luke Ayling’s stunning long-range strike was reduced to a mere footnote in the tale of this game.
The corresponding fixture last season, which was the resumption of this classic rivalry after Leeds United’s 16-year absence from the top flight, had ended 6-2 in favour of Manchester United. But this match showcased an even better team display from the Mancunians, who dominated the game from start to finish and barely let their opponents have a sniff.
The pre-match buzz was mainly around whether Jadon Sancho would get his first start for Manchester United, but it was fellow newcomer Raphael Varane who made a splash, the club officially announcing his transfer by parading him around the pitch before kickoff. He was given a rousing reception by a fully packed Old Trafford, the home fans in full voice after a long, pandemic-driven absence.
His new club started strongly, creating most of the chances in a fun, end-to-end first half. Pogba and Greenwood both went close, before Fernandes scored the opener in the 30th minute. The buildup was slick, Pogba providing a delicious chipped pass over the Leeds defence that Fernandes took down before his finish beat Ilhan Meslier in the Leeds goal, via a deflection off the keeper’s leg.
An entertaining first half then gave way to an absolutely bonkers second 45, with 4 goals coming between minutes 50 and 60. Leeds United struck first, right-back Ayling levelling the score with a rocket from distance that gave the home keeper David de Gea no chance. Marcelo Bielsa’s men were joined in celebration by pockets of away supporters, as the rest of the stadium went quiet.
But the volume went back up just a couple of minutes later, with the Red Devils going goal-crazy. A sublime 40-yard pass from Pogba found Greenwood on the left, with the young forward ghosting into the box and rifling the ball across goal and into the bottom corner. The lead was doubled 2 minutes later, another Pogba pass again finding Fernandes, who made space in the box and fired in with his left. Ayling’s attempted clearance was in vain as goal-line technology confirmed the ball was over the line.
Another long-ball, this time from defender Victor Lindelof, again found Fernandes’s run in behind the crumbling Leeds backline. The Portuguese smashed the bouncing ball home to seal a memorable hat-trick. The final nail in the Leeds coffin came in the 68th minute, with Pogba again turning provider for a rare strike from Fred. The Frenchman was taken off in the 75th minute to loud and sustained applause from the Old Trafford faithful. He and Dan James were replaced by Anthony Martial and the much-awaited Sancho, with both given a chance to stretch their legs as Manchester United closed the game out. The only action of note after this was an awful Raphinha miss to cap off a nightmarish start for the Yorkshire club.
Leeds United badly missed their defensive pivot Kalvin Phillips here, with the England man not yet match-fit after starting every game at the Euros. They will hope for his return and a change of fortunes in their next match, where they will host Everton at Elland Road.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, couldn’t have asked for a better start. Although his team also had some high-profile absentees, the players on the pitch had enough star power for their hapless opponents. Both the performance and the result will have sent an early warning to the other contenders in the title race, and the Red Devils will hope they can take this form on the road, with visits to Southampton and Wolves up next.