There was nobody hotter at a roasting Old Trafford than Anthony Martial as he blazed his way to his first-ever Manchester United hat-trick, with the Reds defeating Sheffield United 3-0.
On the hottest day of 2020, with temperatures inside the empty stadium soaring, Martial was on fire as football returned to United’s home. The 24-year-old scored two poacher’s goals and completed his personal historic display with a sublime third in the second half.
It had been 108 days since that ear-battering crescendo of noise that euphorically greeted Scott McTominay’s sensational late stoppage-time goal against City to make it 2-0 in the Manchester derby.
Old Trafford, obviously, was somewhat different as Project Restart on United’s home turf began with our first home match since lockdown taking place behind closed doors.
After the 1-1 draw in north London against Tottenham that got United back up and running again, the Reds were looking for a return to winning ways to keep in the hunt for the top four and one of those coveted Champions League spots.
Prior to kick-off, the players observed a minute’s silence to honour long-serving former Red Tony Dunne, who died earlier this month at the age of 78. The left-back was a member of our first European Cup-winning side in 1968 and made 535 appearances for United between 1960 and 1973.
And it was a full back who helped the current Reds overcome an upbeat start from Sheffield United to go into an early lead. After seven minutes, an Aaron Wan-Bissaka throw-in arrived at Marcus Rashford’s feet and the striker burst to the byline, then smashed in a low cross to the near post than an alert Martial struck home with his left boot.
It means the Frenchman has scored in three successive home matches in the Premier League.
Martial could have had added an assist, five minutes later, but for a Rashford miss, under pressure from defender Jack Robinson, that would have surprised United fans watching around the world on TV. It was a fantastic break, started by David De Gea and Rashford took it on, fed Martial and went for a return. As it arrived, he scuffed his shot wide when a goal looked a certainty and, disappointingly, the Mancunian then couldn’t finish off a delightful Pogba pass over the defenders into the box.
Bruno Fernandes had a free-kick saved by Simon Moore and then Harry Maguire headed the ball in the Blades’ net after 21 minutes. Our skipper met a corner aggressively but was guilty of a shove on Phil Jagielka when winning the ball and referee Anthony Taylor ruled it out immediately and the decision was confirmed by VAR.
Nevertheless, it was a dominant and superbly slick home team taking the match to the Yorkshire side constantly and the visitors welcomed the first water break to give them some relief from the incessant pressure.
Ole’s men subsequently lost our momentum a shade after that mini-interval, with the Blades enjoying a much better spell. However, with half-time approaching, Martial struck again to make it 2-0. Wan-Bissaka set him up with a low cross, after good work by Fernandes and Pogba, and another side-foot finish from the Frenchman was crisply hit home for his second.
United were in cruise control in the second half but couldn’t turn it into a major threat with the only highlight being a clever Pogba run that ended when Martial took it off his toes as he was about to pull the trigger after a mazy dribble.
The French pair could afford to laugh about it with the Reds enjoying a straightforward evening.
Mason Greenwood had a couple of efforts designed to fire up the second half but it was no surprise that it would be Martial who would relight the match.
In the 74th minute, he grabbed his first treble for United in his five years at the club. Once more, it was an eye-catching finish as he teamed up with Rashford for a devastating one-two that scythed through the Blades and he lifted his third of the game over keeper Moore. The whole move for the strike was just sensational.
Ole became the first manager to make a quintuple substitution when completely reshaping his side as the clock ticked down, with one of the replacements, Juan Mata, racking up his 250th appearance for the club. Another sub, Odion Ighalo, came close to getting in on the act but the Reds will be more than pleased with the three-goal victory that keeps us in the hunt for a top-four place.
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (C), Shaw; Matic, Pogba (McTominay 79); Greenwood (James 79), Fernandes (Mata 79), Rashford (Andreas 79); Martial (Ighalo 79).
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Williams, Fred.
Scorers: Martial 7, 44, 74.
Sheffield United: Moore, Baldock, Basham, Jagielka, Robinson, Stevens, Lundstram, Norwood (C) (Berge 45), Fleck, McGoldrick (Zivkovic 64), Mousset (McBurnie 45).
Subs not used: Verrips, K. Freeman, L. Freeman, Osborn, Rodwell, Sharp.