It was a winning start for Manchester United's new caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the Reds clinically returned to winning ways in the Premier League following an impressive 5-1 win over Cardiff City in South Wales.
A Marcus Rashford free-kick got United off to the perfect start, before Ander Herrera’s 30-yard deflected thunderbolt doubled the Reds lead. Victor Camarasa pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after Rashford had harshly been adjudged to have handled, before Martial restored our two-goal lead with a fantastic team goal all before the interval. Jesse Lingard added a fourth from the spot early in the second half, before putting the icing on the cake in stoppage time, latching onto Paul Pogba's through-ball to round the keeper and score. The result means the Reds clinically bounce back from the disappointment of the Anfield defeat last weekend and give Solskjaer an early Christmas present as United boss.
Having only been handed the reigns this week the United legend had just two days to assess his squad for this visit of Cardiff - a club Solskjaer ironically managed back in 2014, albeit sandwiched between two record-breaking spells in his native Norway with Molde. With a number of injuries and absentees, the Norwegian opted to make four changes following the loss on Merseyside with Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all returning.
Solskjaer had emphasised in the build-up to his first game how he wanted the Reds to 'express and enjoy themselves'. That was certainly evident in the early stages as United knocked the ball around in confident, but assertive fashion. That early spell of possession paid off after just three minutes as Pogba was brought down 25 yards out and Rashford stepped up to fire a wicked free-kick past Neil Etheridge. A perfect start for Solskjaer and United.
The Reds continued to dominate and a quick one-two between goalscorer Rashford and Martial nearly led to the former firing home, but his shot was well blocked. But we got a deserved second just short of the half-hour mark as a lovely ball inside from Pogba found Herrera in acres of space and he unleashed a fierce right-footed 30-yard effort which took a deflection off Greg Cunningham as the ball flew into the top corner.
Cardiff were handed a lifeline on 37 minutes as Rashford was adjudged to have brought the ball down with his arm inside the box, although replays suggested he had cushioned the ball with his shoulder. Neil Warnock’s men didn’t care and Camarasa slotted past David De Gea from the spot.
The Reds felt hard done by and in typical United fashion, just three minutes later, we restored our two-goal cushion and what a goal it was. Pogba picked the ball up on the edge of the box, fed Lingard who found Martial. Our no.11 then played a one-two with Lingard and coolly slotted the ball into the far corner. The perfect response and one Solskjaer himself would have been proud of.
The second half started as the first ended, with United on top. Rashford had an effort from a narrow angle touched wide before he then played a one-two with Pogba, only for Etheridge to smother at his feet. But the Reds didn’t have to wait long to convert the pressure into another goal as a weaving run from Lingard saw Souleymane Bamba trip our no.14 inside the box. Lingard himself confidently stepped up and stroked the ball into the corner.
United wanted more and Rashford was played clean through by Victor Lindelof just past the hour-mark, but his effort was saved by the legs of Etheridge. Cardiff, to their credit did not give up and Josh Murphy forced an excellent save from De Gea down to his left, before Paterson headed a corner over the crossbar.
Pogba tried his luck from 30 yards, but Etheridge was equal to it, expertly tipping over, before Jones' volley from the resulting corner was saved down low. Bamba headed Cardiff's best chance of the second half wide before substitute Kenneth Zohore tested De Gea at his near post.
Lingard put the icing on the cake in the 90th minute, latching onto Pogba's lovely ball in behind to round the goalkeeper and slot the ball into the empty net. He celebrated in the corner with the travelling United contingent who will return to Manchester with big smiles on their faces.
Cardiff: Etheridge; Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Cunningham; Hoilett (Harris 73), Gunnarsson (Ralls 83), Camarasa, Arter (Zohore 61), Murphy; Paterson.
Subs not used: Smithies, Peltier, Mendez-Laing, Reid.
Scorer: Camarasa 38
United: De Gea; Young, Jones, Lindelof; Shaw, Matic (Fellaini 87), Herrera, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford (Fred 79); Martial (A. Pereira 87).
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Dalot, Mata.
Scorers: Rashford 3, Herrera 29, Martial 41, Lingard 57, 90.