Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won his first game in charge of Manchester United in spectacular fashion as the Red Devils ran out 1-5 winners over Cardiff City at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday evening.
There was a lot of talk before the game regarding how the United players would react to the recent managerial change, but they got off to the perfect possible start. Marcus Rashford stood over a free kick from 35 yards out, and unleashed a powerful low effort which swerved into Neil Etheridge's bottom corner to give the visitors an early lead.
United caused the Cardiff defence all sort of problems, and made it 2-0 just before the half hour mark. The ball fell to Ander Herrera around 35 yards away from goal and, with the Cardiff defenders standing off him, decided to take a shot on goal which deflected off Gregory Cunningham and looped into the top corner.
Just when it looked doom and gloom for the hosts, they were handed a lifeline. A long throw into the box from Cardiff resulted in a handball from Rashford whilst trying to clear the ball, with Michael Oliver pointing to the spot. Victor Camarasa stepped up and dispatched the penalty emphatically to cut the visitors' lead in half, although their joy was short lived.
Just four minutes later, some fantastic link up play between Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial resulted in the latter being played through on goal, and he coolly slotted the ball home to make it 3-1 in impressive fashion heading into half time.
United made it 4-1 early in the second half with Lingard dispatching a penalty 10 minutes into the second half, and the Englishman then capped off a stunning performance in stylish fashion as he rounded the keeper and slotted home in front of the travelling fans.
United's win marks the first time they have scored five goals in a Premier League outing since Sir Alex Fegurson's final game. Here's our breakdown of Solskjaer's perfect start.
Key Talking Point
It was always going to be a tough task for Cardiff to get anything from the game, despite the fact they'd won their last three home Premier League games.
The early goal seemed to set the pace of the game off with United only growing in confidence going forward and putting the Cardiff defence under immense pressure. Even when they thought they'd been handed a lifeline with Camarasa's penalty, the hosts' hopes of getting back in the game were shot down just minutes later with a moment of quality.
It was clear that the two teams were a class apart and I'm sure Neil Warnock's side won't be the only team to suffer the same fate against this rejuvenated United team.
Starting XI: Etheridge (5); Ecuele Manga (6), Morrison (5), Bamba (5), Cunningham (6); Hoilett (6), Camarasa (6), Gunnarsson (5), Arter (6), Murphy (6); Paterson (5).
Substitutes: Zohore (7), Harris (6), Ralls (N/A).
STAR MAN - He only played 30 minutes after coming on as a second half substitute, however Kenneth Zohore looked a real threat when he came on.
its good to see zohore back trying, he was frightening this part last year.— Thomas Walters (@thomas11walters) December 22, 2018
Gave them far far to much respect, possibly the earlier results got on their minds but that’s no excuse! Have to say and I may get slated, thought zohore changed our game, he looked like he did start of last season good runs and strength! But that was poor tonight— Michael Youde 💙 (@Youdley24) December 22, 2018
Unfortunately for him the damage was done prior to his introduction to the game, however he can hold his head up high with his performance.
WORST PLAYER - Although there were a whole host of players who underperformed on the night, Aron Gunnarsson particularly struggled to tame the United attack.
He found himself hopelessly chasing shadows throughout the game as the visitors ran Cardiff riot in the centre of the park. Unfortunately it wasn't to be for him, and it'll go down as a night he'll want to forget in a hurry.
Key Talking Point
United fans were intrigued prior to kick-off as to how their side would play and they certainly weren't left disappointed. Having played passive, even negative football under previous manager Jose Mourinho, the Red Devils attacked from the first minute and looked relentless going forward and are clearly enjoying themselves once again.
There were some great passages of play from a group of players who looked full of confidence, and their third goal optimized this. Some great one-touch link up play from Pogba, Lingard and Martial resulted in a very well worked goal, a goal which looked reminiscing of the United of old.
The players desperately needed to put in a strong performance to help lift the spirts around the club, and if tonight was a sign of things to come then it looks to finally be a great time to be a United fan again.
So this is what football looks like?— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) December 22, 2018
Starting XI: De Gea (6); Young (6), Jones (7), Lindelöf (7), Shaw (6); Herrera (8), Matic (7), Pogba (8); Lingard (9), Rashford (8), Martial (9).
Substitutes: Fred (6), Pereira (N/A), Fellaini (N/A).
STAR MAN - On a night where there were a number of impressive performers, there was one player who stood out from the rest. Martial struggled at times under Mourinho as he found himself in and out of the starting lineup, however he certainly staked his claim to his new manager as to why he should start every week.
He was a nuisance on the left hand side all afternoon and scored a brilliant goal for good measure. He looked like a rejuvenated player on the night, and the fans will certainly be hoping for more of the same in the weeks to come.
WORST PLAYER - There weren't too many players who performed badly on the night, although Luke Shaw had a fairly quiet game.
He did what he had to do in defence and did offer support going forward, however on a night where the attackers stole the show for once, he was a quiet figure on the pitch which I'm sure he won't be too disappointed about.
It's an afternoon Cardiff will want to forget in a hurry as they now prepare to travel and face a Crystal Palace side who will be full of confidence after their impressive win over Manchester City.
As for Solskjaer's men, they'll finally be full of confidence once again and will be hoping to replicate their performance when they host another struggling side in the form of Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day night.