Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba were the star acts on a scintillating team as Manchester United ignited the style of their route on a Leeds side that ended up shell-shocked and desperate for referee Paul Tierney to whistle. Last season’s similar match had Leeds won 6-2, but this was a far finer display from United that was a study of roaring and powerhouse football.
Fernandes finished with a hat trick and Pogba as chief conductor, his coupling of assists illustrates exactly why Ole Gunnar Solskjær values him so dearly. “Impressive: Paul has the vision, he has that quality,” said Solskjær of Pogba, whose number four assist – a United record in the competition.
However, the Norwegian had praise for all his players. “I know the headlines will probably be about Bruno or Paul, but it’s a team effort. The Mason room [Greenwood] creates for Bruno when the two open the channels that have been worked on this week. I’m also very impressed with Paul’s fitness levels. He looks fit, ready to go. I love watching Paul, Bruno, all these guys smile and enjoy their football.
“It has been a perfect day in that regard. I love the kick-off at 12.30-just by driving in with the fans outside, you come inside and feel the energy, absolutely brilliant. It has been a very good day. This is Manchester United – everyone. ”
For the neutral, this was an exciting return to a sold-out Old Trafford that featured two sides going against each other like cruiserweights before a crowd whose volume level pushed the needle into the red all the way through.
Fernande’s slim first half strike came via the kind of fast pace that will delight Solskjær. From almost halfway through, Scott McTominay hit the ball to Pogba, whose instant relay of it caused Fernandes to pull the ball down with a feathery touch and then hit Illan Meslier with a finish that flipped home from the goalkeeper’s right leg.
United were set up in Solskjær’s usual 4-2-3-1, 17 months after the last full house at the stadium. Then 73,288 Manchester City saw a 2-0 derby defeat that ended in rapture as McTominay struck the 40-yard second into an empty net.
This time, midfielder Fred had next to him to form a partnership that may lack flair and which was put on hold due to a relocation in the attack that showed Pogba pushed up as Anthony Martial’s condition was only enough for a substitute role , where he was joined by Jadon Sancho, the summer signing of £ 73 million.
An ever-present roar began with the parade before the kick-off of Raphaël Varane, when his long-term transfer was finally sealed (subject to international clearance), while Sancho would make his debut, along with Martial, in 74 minutes.
United’s rise had lacked the murderous touch of further finishes when the interval came, and so it was that the second half began with all results still possible. For this, Marcelo Bielsa introduced the new signing, Junior Firpo, Rodrigo made room and soon his team was level.
This was a finish to remember when right-back Luke Ayling was collected from Stuart Dallas, who stepped forward and let fly a peach that always curled away from David de Gea, to the delight of the pogoing traveling fans.
The same feeling was rising through their opposing numbers as United embarked on an irresistible goal rush. Their second attack was even finer than the match two earlier, an excellent back-to-front sequence that got Luke Shaw to find Pogba in traffic near the United area. A sublime 40-yard ball from No 6 crept past Pascal Struijk onto the path of the galloping Mason Greenwood along the left. The striker skated in at an angle and then hit Meslier with a finish that hit the far post.
Seconds later there was more. In this mood, Pogba is the world beater he can be considered, able to dictate when the goal is broken. So it was that his next contribution was a disguised ball that hit Fernandes. No 10 performed a shoe-shuffle that caused the defenders to swing and he was able to score with his left, goal technology confirming that Ayling’s clearance came too late.
If this was extremely pleasing to the united congregation, they then entered the dreamland with courtesy in part of the unlikely figure of Victor Lindelöf. The Swede is seriously threatened by Varane’s arrival, so the best riposte is to raise the quality. The ball in Fernandes looked like an experienced schemer as it took his teammate ready, and the talisman’s ball blew the net for only United’s second Premier League hat-trick since Robin van Persie won the 2012-13 title here, Martial got the second against Sheffield United last June year. He said: “The joy is really good – I want to call my wife and hear my children say: ‘The ball is coming home’. It’s incredible you can not describe this feeling. ”
On an opening day to remember, the goals just kept coming. Greenwood played a pass around the corner to Pogba, and he — once again — was the provider and rolled the ball to Fred, who may be malignant, but whose finish made it 5-1 and equalized his total last season.
By the end, this was the perfect start for the home side and a total nightmare for Leeds. “The sequence of three goals in such a short time [second-half] time overcame us, ”said Bielsa. “Having lost the way we lost cannot be described as just a blip.”