From Ayling to wailing in 3 minutes: An idyllic start for Solskjær

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The English Premier League is back with the buzz of fans in full stadiums again and the football intensely competitive as always. The anticipation was well worth it.

Fans are very much alive and filling the stadiums with unrelenting chants. Goals flew in all directions for round one leaving no room for ties, it was either you won or you lost, as simple as that.

Defending champions Manchester City were the only of the big boys club who lost while a less than impressive Arsenal side succumbed to defeat at new boys Brentford in a manner that has become all too familiar with it.  Overall, it was quite a great start to the 2021/2022 season for Rafael Benitez, Nuno Espirito Santo, Thomas Tuchel, David Moyes and most of all, Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

Manchester United’s quality was evident even before kick-off and particularly in the second half when Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United were stopped dead in their tracks. One of the club’s biggest signings in recent years; the World Cup and multiple Champions League winner Raphaël Varane, though not featuring in the line-up, was presented to a standing ovation from adoring red devils at Old Trafford. Varane strode across the pitch clad in a suit and tie, jersey in both hands complete with a lush smile.

The first few minutes of the game saw the home side laying quite some pressure on The Whites who eventually found solace in settling into a competitive rhythm. 12 minutes in and a missed opportunity at goal for Paul Pogba left Illan Meslier breathing a short-lived sigh of relief. Barely 20 minutes later and the very same Paul Pogba supplied a seemingly casual but carefully weighted pass to Bruno Fernandes who found the back of the net. Although Manchester United led at halftime, Leeds had quite a satisfactory performance with hopes for better after the break.

That hope was reinforced by a missile of a shot from Luke Ayling to see the second half to a fitting take off. He had no sooner provided the equalizer than lightning struck. In a matter of only 3 ensuing minutes, Leeds went from celebrating Ayling to wailing as Manchester United force-fed them 4 more goals uncompromising on quality and obliterating whatever hope remained in the process. Perhaps it was reminiscent of the Red Devils’ first round of the 2019/2020 Premier League season which saw a 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea on 11th August 2019 and even the corresponding fixture last season where Leeds were blown away in a 6-2 defeat to United on 20th December 2020.

In the 52nd minute, Mason Greenwood quickly found Meslier’s far corner by seizing a pass down the left wing from Pogba and ensured a restoration of United’s lead. Then Fernandes, apparently hungry for more, made a run from the gift of another Pogba through ball to cross Meslier’s line yet again in spite of Ayling’s attempt at preventing the inevitable.

With half an hour remaining, things could have gotten much worse for Bielsa and they did. Fernandes struck a fourth goal for United, grabbing his hat trick alongside. Subsequently, Fred decided to get in on the action and crown it all from an apt Pogba cross by slotting home a fifth goal right in front of Meslier who should have had enough by then.

With no room for recovery at 90 minutes, Leeds undeniably felt the surge at Old Trafford, being thumped 5-1 and within this victory were even more wins for Ole’s team. Pogba, in providing a quartet of assists, tied the English Premier League record for the most assists in one game. The Frenchman joins Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Santi Cazorla, Dusan Tadic, and Harry Kane who have all recorded same.

In just a single game, his club’s opener for that matter, Pogba outdid his own total of three assists from the whole of last season. Bruno Fernandes will also be deservedly content with himself for scoring his first hat trick for United since making Old Trafford his home in January 2020.

Manchester United fans have been left roaring for the Premier League title after just the first of 38 games. However, this is the Premier League, a marathon not a sprint so and only time is bound to tell. And against a wounded Southampton in their next game, we should get more answers about just how good Man United are.

The question of consistency remains but after such a terrific start, it is Glory Glory Man United as the reds go marching on!

By: Aniela Allotey|3Sports|Ghana