Manchester United enjoyed beating Leeds United. In their first Premier League meeting in 16 years, United genuinely enjoyed their football. They played with pace, style and intensity and thrashed their historic rivals with four goals in the first 37 minutes.

A victory for the ages against Leeds

A 16-year wait for Leeds United. When it arrived, no fans were in the stadium and they trailed by two goals within three minutes. It was an utterly bizarre start to a game – totally unexpected. And it was magnificent. A Leeds goal on the stroke of half-time somehow made things nervous but by 70 minutes, it was six and the smirk, the grin and the hard heartbeat of delight had returned. This was a truly brilliant win – a historic one, too. United made their mark on an old derby in a fantastic way.

Solskjaer pops a balloon and Manchester United can start games well

Talking to Sky Sports pre-match, Solskjaer was asked about United’s slow starts this season. He said something along the lines of, ‘maybe I’ll need to pop a balloon in the dressing room just before kick-off’. Perhaps he did. Someone check the bin at Old Trafford (you might find a couple of champagne corks in there too…)

United started hard and fast. It was out of the blue, against every expectation and so satisfying. It shows that United can play like this when the team is right and the attitude is right.

The Norwegian got his team selection spot on too. Full credit for that.

A thrilling game when the world needed it

During what is probably the most miserable of Christmas periods for the world, and for the United Kingdom, this was a game of excitement throughout. It was typical of Leeds, and not Manchester United, but it was the latter’s quality in the final third and on the break which made it so good.

 

In this strange Christmas, for United fans especially, this was 90 minutes to forget about everything else and just smile. And smile some more.

Best ever for United from Martial and McTominay

McTominay was perfect in everything he did. It was like watching another iteration of the Scottish midfielder with all his normal qualities but also another level of brilliance. His storming runs forward were completed with a calmness on the ball. Ball rolls, stepovers, shaking off the opposition – McTominay looked like Yaya Touré.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United scores their team's third goal  during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford on December 20, 2020 in Manchester, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution.
(Photo by Nick Potts – Pool/Getty Images)

Martial, too, although he missed far too many chances, was at his very best. His hold-up play was the best in memory for United.

Manchester United success depends on the tightest of margins

How often have United started a game well only to fizzle out after five minutes when they miss their opening two chances? Well, not this time. They scored both. And the confidence it inspired in the team was remarkable. Every touch was good, every pass was deliberate, hard and almost always accurate.

This is a side who operate well only when they are confident. It means its success is incredibly dependent on tight marginsl whether McTominay hits it perfectly into the bottom corner or not with his two chances in the opening three minutes or not.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Scott McTominay of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their sides second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford on December 20, 2020 in Manchester, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution.
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Take the second half, for example, when Martial missed a wonderful opportunity at its very start. Had he finished, you could envisage another confidence boost and another rampant 20 minutes.

Instead, United took a while to get their fifth and sixth. A confidence team who are completely unstoppable when they have that inner belief.

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