Manchester United put their recent slow starts behind when they struck a clear 6-2 win over Leeds United thanks to four goals in the first half.
Scott McTominay put United to win in the second and third minutes. The midfielder threw an out-of-area try into the lower corner before charging into the box to add his second.
Bruno Fernandes scored the Red Devils’ third goal in the 20th minute and pounded into the bottom corner after a quick counterattack, while Victor Lindelof scored a rare goal from a corner to extend the lead.
Leeds pulled back a goal through a corner when Liam Cooper rose the highest of Raphinha’s flank before the break.
Anthony Martial and Raphinha had chances in the second half while Daniel James showed James 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 provided consolation for the visitors.
United’s dominant win over their old opponents saw them finish in the top four, extending their impressive run in the Premier League to six wins in their last seven games.
Here are five talking points from Old Trafford.
1st McTominay master class
“Scott McTomiany has turned into Paul Scholes and Roy Keane has turned into one,” said Gary Neville after the midfielder’s second goal in two minutes.
It was a wink, but McTominay’s performance warranted comparisons to the legendary United duo.
The 24-year-old struggled to maintain his starting role this season and had to settle for a minute off the bench last time against Sheffield United.
It took the Scottish international only a few seconds to justify his return to the starting XI as he became the first player in top division history to score twice in the first three minutes.
McTominay’s sweet attempt nestled in the bottom corner in the second minute and he danced into the box to add his second the next minute.
After a great performance, he skipped a challenge and picked up the assist when Daniel added James United’s fifth evening.
McTominay have forged a dynamic midfield partnership with Fred, and the pair have been able to gain a foothold and trace back in ways that 32-year-old Nemanja Matic cannot.
A two-goal game against Leeds means McTominay’s starting role is to lose, while his importance to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will only increase in the face of uncertainty about Paul Pogba’s future.
2. Slow starter who?
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be delighted how his team stormed out of the blocks from the first whistle at Old Trafford.
Manchester United have built an unwanted slow starter reputation after routinely conceding their first goal earlier this season.
The most recent example of this was on Wednesday when David McGoldrick scored the goal for Sheffield United in the fifth minute.
United continued to win 3-2, but Solskjaer admitted concerns about a “sloppy, slow” start in his post-game interview.
“I’m very surprised about it because we talked about it and showed it on video. We knew exactly what was going to happen and it was happening,” added Solskjaer. “We ran across the field and that’s not good enough.”
But the Red Devils’ start against Leeds wasn’t sloppy. The hosts started at breakneck speed and opened one of the most intense teams in the Premier League twice in the first three minutes.
It seems that Solskjaer’s message got through.
3. Bielsa fails
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa has made headlines in recent weeks for his lead-up transparency and even named his starting XI for West Ham earlier this month.
His final openness before the game was to declare that the trip to Manchester United would not deviate from his usual high-intensity attacking style.
“We will try to use our resources and hope that they will be enough to deal with our counterattack and the threat of set pieces without changing our style,” said Bielsa.
“There is a very safe way to do this, by playing a neutral game where we play in our own half so there are no counterattacks. But we are not ready for that. “
They made for an entertaining watch, but Bielsa’s tactics didn’t bring Leeds to fruition as they lost 4-0 after 37 minutes.
United have pierced their guests multiple times while the selection of their succinct counter-attacks resulted in Bruno Fernandes’ goal in the 20th minute.
Leeds showed their own attacking intent and Patrick Bamford saw an offside goal and the effort went way over the bar. Raphinha also impressed, with plenty of chances thanks to Leeds ’59 possession.
The visitors’ goals came after the game was already lost, however, and the result is a reminder of why newly promoted teams lined up in a deep block at Old Trafford.
4. More Fernandes excellence
Another two goals and one assist bring Bruno Fernandes to 20 goals in 20 appearances in all competitions for the season.
Notable numbers for a really notable player.
Fernandes used Scott McTominay to open the game and struck the bottom corner from close range to give United 3-0 lead within 20 minutes.
And the Portuguese showed typical steeliness from the penalty spot, adding United’s sixth place from 12 meters after Anthony Martial was brought into the box.
During the club’s inconsistent season opener, Fernandes was the man who led United to positive results, often single-handedly.
But United has left disagreement behind with six wins in their last seven Premier League games, while six different Red Devils players have scored one goal in their last two games.
Fernandes remains the talisman and instrumental player of the club on the pitch – but he’ll be relieved to see his teammates step up and share the burden of responsibility.
5. Boxing Day Treats Awaiting
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard and Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho both downplayed their side’s titles last month.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did the opposite before the clash with Leeds.
“We have to play one game at a time and improve as a team. Let’s see when we are in March, “said the United boss.
The win over Leeds puts United in third place, five points behind leaders Liverpool with one game in hand.
Tottenham have been touted as Liverpool’s closest rivals but slipped to fifth with a 2-0 home loss to Leicester City on Sunday.
The Foxes victory in north London put them in second place and resulted in a delicious Boxing Day duel with Manchester United.
Should United win at King Power on the 26th, they would close the gap at the top to just two points and put pressure on the Reds before taking on Sam Allardyce’s West Brom the next day.
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