After their draw with Tottenham Hotspur last Friday, Manchester United blew Sheffield United away, winning the match 3-0, and Anthony Martial stole the show and scored his first senior career hat-trick.
Anthony Martial Hat-Trick Secures Manchester United Victory Against Sheffield United
A Solid First-Half Display From Manchester United With Martial on Form
As they did against Spurs, United started the game well. This time though, they were able to score an early goal.
Seven minutes into the match, Marcus Rashford picked up a loose ball after an Aaron Wan-Bissaka throw-in in the final third. The United top goalscorer darted towards the touchline before drilling a low cross in the Sheffield United area. Martial was on hand to finish impressively past Simon Moore with his first touch.
Afterwards, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men almost made it two, with Rashford coming close twice. The Englishman linked up with Martial again five minutes after the first goal, but he could not find the net after a rather unexpected return pass from the Frenchman in the area.
His next chance came after some fluid link-up play with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. After Fernandes flicked the ball into Rashford’s path, Rashford passed back into Pogba’s path – a delicate lofted pass over the Sheffield United defence set Rashford up; but he could not connect with his volley.
Even though Chris Wilder’s men got a grip in the match after the first-half water break, they could not create any clearcut chances.
Just before the interval, United moved the ball from the left to the right; with Fernandes feinting to shoot twice before the ball made its way to Wan-Bissaka via Pogba’s pass. Initially, the right-back looked as if he missed his crossing opportunity, until he scooped the ball back onto the outside of Enda Stevens and crossed the ball into Martial’s feet. The Frenchman was just as clinical as beforehand.
A Dominant Manchester United Midfield
Solskjaer arguably started his strongest midfield, with Nemanja Matic and Pogba in a double pivot and Fernandes operating in front of them. The three midfielders were brilliant throughout, especially in the second half.
The Serbian controlled the tempo of the match, playing 94 passes in the match. He added stability to the midfield while both Pogba and Fernandes flourished in the attacking third.
The second half included much of the ball in the middle third of the pitch, with Man United dominating the play.
In his first start for United since the match against Arsenal in late September, Pogba proved his talent throughout; but his best moment came just after the 60th-minute mark. He received the ball 25-yards out, nutmegged one oncoming player before taking on two more inside the area. Martial took over possession and missed the goal with his shot, yet Pogba’s run with the ball was amazing to watch.
The third goal of the match came from the midfield. Pogba started the attack with a brilliant through ball into Fernandes. The Portuguese’s delicate flick found Martial. Yet again, he linked up with Rashford. The Englishman was able to split the Sheffield United defence with a return pass to Martial, who finished emphatically with a chip over the helpless Moore. He scored Man United’s first Premier League hat-trick since Robin van Persie‘s against Aston Villa in 2013.
The Perfect Attacking Formula?
It was perhaps Manchester United’s best overall performance of the season, with them dominating the entire match. Have the Red Devils found their best-attacking formula?
The balance in midfield looked to work in this match. The question bares whether it will look as solid when the opposition offers more of an attacking threat.
Yet, the front three of Rashford, Martial and Mason Greenwood is certainly the best way for Solskjaer to line up his frontline; bringing Daniel James in for certain matches against sides where counter-attacking will be a clear gameplan.
A comfortable three points, in what should’ve been a tougher game, means that Manchester United are just two points away from Chelsea, who face Manchester City on Thursday.
The race for Champions League qualification looks to be an interesting one. Manchester United are in a positive position considering their remaining fixtures. They, however, turn their focus to the FA Cup now, with a quarter-final matchup against Norwich City on Saturday.