Manchester United put recent slow starts behind them as they surged to an emphatic 6-2 victory over Leeds United thanks to four first-half goals.
Scott McTominay set United on course for victory by netting in the second and third minutes. The midfielder rifled an effort from outside the area into the bottom corner before bursting into the box to add his second.
Bruno Fernandes scored the Red Devils’ third in the 20th minute, hammering into the bottom corner after a swift counter-attack, while Victor Lindelof scored a rare goal from a corner to increase the lead.
Leeds pulled a goal back through a corner of their own as Liam Cooper rose highest to head in from Raphinha’s cross before half-time.
Anthony Martial and Raphinha had chances in the second half, while Daniel James was shown a yellow card for diving in the Leeds box.
James made amends soon after by receiving the ball from McTominay and scoring under Illan Meslier, while Fernandes added his second from the penalty spot and Stuart Dallas scored a consolation for the visitors.
United’s dominant victory over their old foe saw them burst into the top four and extended their impressive run in the Premier League to six wins in their last seven games.
Here are five talking points from Old Trafford.
1. McTominay masterclass
“Scott McTomiany has turned into Paul Scholes and Roy Keane rolled into one,” said Gary Neville after the midfielder’s second goal in two minutes.
It was tongue-in-cheek praise, but McTominay’s performance fully warranted comparisons to the legendary United duo.
The 24-year-old has struggled to hold onto his starting role this season and had to settle for one minute off the bench against Sheffield United last time out.
But it took a matter of seconds for the Scotland international to justify his return to the starting XI, as he became the first player in top-flight history to score twice in the first three minutes.
McTominay’s sweetly-struck effort nestled in the bottom corner in the second minute and he danced into the box to add his second the next minute.
Capping a superb performance, he skipped past a challenge and picked up the assist as Daniel James added United’s fifth of the evening.
McTominay has formed a dynamic midfield partnership with Fred and the pair are able to cover ground and track back in a way 32-year-old Nemanja Matic cannot.
A two-goal showing against Leeds means McTominay’s starting role is his to lose, while his importance to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will only increase amid uncertainty over Paul Pogba’s future.
2. Slow starters who?
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be delighted by how his side came charging out of the blocks from the very first whistle at Old Trafford.
Manchester United have earned the unwanted reputation of being slow starters after routinely conceding the first goal early on this season.
The latest example of this came on Wednesday, when David McGoldrick opened the scoring for Sheffield United in the fifth minute.
United went on to win 3-2 but Solskjaer admitted his concern with a “sloppy, slow” start in his post-match interview.
“I’m very surprised about that because we’d spoken about it, showed videos. We knew exactly what was going to happen and it happened,” Solskjaer added. “We jogged around the pitch and that’s not good enough.”
But there was nothing sloppy about the Red Devils’ start against Leeds; the hosts started at a frantic tempo and scythed open one of the most intense teams in the Premier League twice in the first three minutes.
It seems Solskjaer’s message has sunk in.
3. Bielsa gamble backfires
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa has grabbed headlines for his transparency in the build-up to matches in recent weeks, even naming his starting XI to face West Ham earlier this month.
His latest pre-match show of openness was to declare he would not deviate from his usual high-intensity, attacking style for the trip to Manchester United.
“We’re going to try to use our resources and hope they are enough, without changing our style, to deal with their counter attacks and threat from set-pieces,” said Bielsa.
“There’s a very safe way of doing this by playing a neutral game, with us playing in our own half so there are no counter attacks. But we aren’t prepared to do that.”
They made for an entertaining watch, but Bielsa’s tactics bore no fruit for Leeds as they found themselves 4-0 down after 37 minutes.
United carved through their visitors on numerous occasions, while the pick of their incisive counter-attacks was the one which led to Bruno Fernandes’ goal in the 20th minute.
Leeds showed attacking intent of their own and Patrick Bamford saw a goal chalked off for offside and efforts go wide and over the bar. Raphinha also impressed and was given numerous chances thanks to Leeds’ 59 per cent share of possession.
But the visitors’ goals came when the game was already lost and the result serves as a reminder of why newly-promoted sides set up at Old Trafford in a deep block.
4. More Fernandes excellence
Another two goals and an assist takes Bruno Fernandes tally for the season to 20 goal involvements in 20 appearances in all competitions.
Remarkable numbers for a truly remarkable player.
Fernandes teed-up Scott McTominay for the opener and smashed an effort from close range into the bottom corner to put United 3-0 up within 20 minutes.
And the Portuguese showed typical steeliness from the penalty spot to add United’s sixth from 12 yards after Anthony Martial was brought down in the box.
During the club’s patchy start to the season, Fernandes was the man to haul United to positive results, often single-handedly.
But United have put inconsistency behind them with a run of six wins in their last seven Premier League games, while six different Red Devils players have scored in their last two fixtures.
Fernandes remains the talisman and the club’s instrumental player on the pitch – but he will be relieved his teammates are stepping up and sharing the burden of responsibility.
5. Boxing Day treat awaits
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a point of doing the opposite ahead of the clash with Leeds.
“We have to take one game at a time and improve as a team. Let’s see when we get to March,” said the United boss.
Victory over Leeds sends United third in the table, five points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
Tottenham have been touted as Liverpool’s closest rivals but slipped to fifth with a 2-0 defeat at home to Leicester City earlier on Sunday.
The Foxes’ victory in north London saw them claim second and sets up a mouth-watering Boxing Day clash with Manchester United.
Should United win at the King Power on the 26th, they will close the gap at the top to just two points, piling pressure on the Reds ahead of their clash with Sam Allardyce’s West Brom the following day.
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