Talking points: United v Sheff United
It's been a long time coming but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United side were finally back on the hallowed Old Trafford turf on Wednesday night as the Reds ran out deserved 3-0 winners.
An Anthony Martial hat-trick sealed an important three points as the Reds kept the pressure on the top four in the Premier League. Below, we've rounded up some of main talking points from the victory...
“Football is nothing without fans.” This was a quote from the great Sir Matt Busby which adorned a large part of the Stretford End lower tier and it’s certainly very odd to have just a smattering of people dotted around Old Trafford compared to the lively thousands we’re used to having inside our famous arena. But the club did a superb job of adding the fans' presence with gigantic mosaics adorning three of the four stands. Banners showing support for our NHS heroes and the club’s anti-racism campaign were also on show with Old Trafford still looking beautiful in the evening sunlight despite missing our fans.
Tribute to Tony
Before kick-off, the players and those inside the ground paid tribute to 1968 hero Tony Dunne. Both teams stood around the centre-circle during an impeccably observed minute’s silence to honour our European Cup-winning defender, who sadly passed away earlier this month, aged 78. The left-back made 535 appearances for the Reds between 1960 and 1973, placing him eighth on our all-time list.
First start for Pogba
Paul Pogba made an impressive comeback from injury in his first game back against Tottenham last Friday and this was another positive step forward for the French World-Cup winner in what was his first start since September as he linked up with Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes in an impressive midfield for the Reds. Pogba had endured a hugely frustrating 2019/20 campaign, having struggled with injury since August. Having him back, along with fit-again Marcus Rashford, will continue to be a big boost for the Reds for the final part of the campaign as we battle it out in three competitions with one mazy run a highlight of the second half.
Martial off the mark in super-quick time
After being denied by a Hugo Lloris wonder-save last week, Martial opened his account for Project Restart in fine fashion with an excellent hat-trick and his opening strike was both the quickest of Project Restart so far and the joint-fastest United strike of the season, alongside Marcus Rashford’s against Tottenham at Old Trafford in December. It came as the other three top-flight matches taking place at the same time were all goalless at the interval.
Shout, shout, let it all out
The one very different element of behind-closed-doors matches is being able hear virtually everything that the players and coaching staff are shouting throughout the 90 minutes. Every player was fired up throughout but it was interesting to note those who were particularly vocal in Harry Maguire, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba. The skipper marshalled his defence with authority and offered encouragement and instructions throughout, while Pogba and Matic set about organising and inspiring in an attacking sense. Pogba even continued when he took his seat in the stands following his substitution as the Reds looked to add to our impressive goals tally.
Martial was the star man for the Reds as he netted his first-ever hat-trick and a first for the Reds since Robin van Persie's in the title-winning match against Aston Villa back in 2013. Two poacher-like goals at either end of the first period were followed by a sublime finish for his treble as he linked up brilliantly with Rashford before scooping the ball over Simon Moore in the Sheffield United goal, who, of course, came in for United's on-loan stopper Dean Henderson. Martial's three strikes take his tally to 19 for the season, level with Rashford and, in this form, you'd fully expect him to get into the 20s pretty soon.
Reds return to Old Trafford Gallery
These are the photos you must see from our big Premier League match against Sheffield United.
Juan Mata came off the bench to make his 250th appearance for the Reds in the latter stages of the excellent win over the Blades. The Spaniard, widely known as one of the nicest guys in the game as well as being an extremely talented footballer, joined in January 2014 and has netted 47 goals in that time. It’s an impressive landmark for the talented midfielder and he’ll be aiming to add further to that over the coming weeks.
It was one of five changes at the same time by Ole, with just over 10 minutes remaining - another first.
We are all United as the Reds go marching on! On sale now, get your 2019/20 kit while stocks last.