A full home at Outdated Trafford for the primary time in almost 18 months, a brand new signing introduced earlier than kick-off, a hat trick from their talisman and a thumping victory over a hated rival — the 2021-22 Premier League marketing campaign is off to a flyer for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his staff after a 5-1 win over Leeds United.
Struggling within the switch market and brief on optimism, United misplaced the primary recreation of final season to Crystal Palace. The temper a yr later couldn’t be extra totally different.
“It has been an ideal day,” mentioned Solskjaer afterwards. “Simply driving in with the followers exterior, you come inside and really feel the vitality, completely good; it has been an excellent day.”
It was all the time going to be an event with many supporters returning to look at a recreation for the primary time since March 8, 2020, however a day which began with early pies and pints was lifted additional when new centre-back Raphael Varane walked out onto the pitch, formally a United participant after the completion of his transfer from Real Madrid. That was simply the warm-up act.
When the true present began, Bruno Fernandes scored a hat trick and Paul Pogba continued his nice Euros kind with 4 assists. A 40-yard cross for Mason Greenwood‘s purpose was a specific spotlight. Fred bought the fifth purpose and there was nonetheless time for quarter-hour on the finish for the brand new signing of Jadon Sancho.
He was greeted by the Leeds followers with chants of “you let your nation down” after his penalty miss towards Italy, however when the ultimate whistle went it was Sancho and Solskjaer who have been laughing.
There was solely a quick second when it seemed like Leeds would possibly spoil the social gathering when Luke Ayling unleashed a rocket previous David De Gea to make it 1-1, however Solskjaer would have been thrilled to see his staff reply with three targets in eight minutes to place the sport past Marcelo Bielsa’s males.
It was almost December by the point United gained a house league recreation final season — a run which Solskjaer says ruined any likelihood of a sensible title problem — however this time they’ve burst out of the blocks.
It may have been a frightening recreation for a gap weekend towards a staff considered the fittest within the league and with the advantage of a full preseason, however United made it look straight ahead.
“You must benefit from the stress of taking part in in entrance of 75,000 Man United supporters and tens of millions on TV,” mentioned Solskjaer. “I knew they have been going to work onerous however I wasn’t positive about our health ranges. Leeds are a excessive depth staff. The way in which we labored, that’s essential after which you possibly can smile in the direction of the tip.”
The noise inside Outdated Trafford went up a notch when Varane walked out onto the pitch moments earlier than kick-off, however it was nothing in comparison with the roar when United went forward.
Pogba clipped a intelligent cross in the direction of Fernandes, who took one contact to regular himself after which one other to smash his shot together with his left foot Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier bought a giant chunk of — however not sufficient to cease the ball from bouncing over the road. It’s simply the fifth time Fernandes has performed in entrance of a full home at Outdated Trafford since arriving in January 2020, and he made essentially the most with a knee slide into the nook. The purpose capped a primary half-hour performed at a frantic tempo with either side being pushed ahead by their supporters.
There was a swell of sound each time both staff crossed the midway line and even a suggestion of contact had referee Paul Tierney being hounded from all sides of the stadium and doubtless wishing he was again behind closed doorways. Fernandes was much more at house in entrance of the 72,000 followers, and after Greenwood had made it 2-1 — simply 4 minutes after Leeds’ equaliser — the Portuguese midfielder scored twice to turn into the primary United participant to attain a hat trick on the opening day of a league season since Lou Macari towards Birmingham in 1977.
Pogba made the primary two and likewise created the targets for Greenwood and Fred to complete his afternoon with 4 assists and turn into solely the seventh participant to perform that feat in a single contest. For context, he has managed simply three in every of his final two seasons.
“Paul has bought that imaginative and prescient and that high quality,” mentioned Solskjaer. “I do know that the headlines will in all probability be about Bruno or Paul however this can be a staff effort.”
In a message to the returning followers within the programme, Ed Woodward wrote that “our goal at Manchester United is all the time to be competing for crucial trophies with an entertaining, hard-working staff comprised of top-class recruits constructed on a basis of the very best homegrown expertise.” It was a day when the plan got here collectively.