Written by Lwando Mhobo
Manchester United “Red Devils” kicked off their 2021/2022 Premier League season in scintillating fashion by thumping Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United side 5-1 in their first game of the season at Old Trafford.
Before the first whistle was blown,the match programme started with the presentation of Manchester United’s latest acquisition,28-year old World Cup winner Raphael Varane joining the club from Spanish giants Real Madrid,who received a raucous reception from the 75 000 fans in attendance.
Manchester United were quick out the blocks and looked to impress their home crowd with their quick,intricate passing as they deservedly took the lead in the 30th minute through their Portuguese star midfielder,Bruno Fernandes. Scott McTominay retrieved the ball from a poor kick from Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier and quickly progressed it to Paul Pogba,who spotted the run of Bruno Fernandes releasing him with a delicate chip,the Portuguese talisman beautifully controlled the ball with his right and struck a shot with his weaker left foot that Illan Meslier could only parry into the back of the net. The hosts went into half-time with a 1-0 lead.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United started the second half as the better team as they quickly grabbed an exquisite equaliser five minutes after the restart through their English defender Luke Ayling,who struck a pile driver from 25 yards out that ended up in the top left corner leaving Manchester United’s goalkeeper David de Gea in no man’s land.
Instead of dampening their mood,that equaliser spurred the Red Devil’s on as they put on a show at the Theatre of Dreams with Mason Greenwood restoring their lead 3 minutes later,latching on to Paul Pogba’s defence splitting pass and finishing past Meslier with pinpoint precision,into the the bottom right corner.
Two minutes later,in the 54th minute, the same partnership that combined for the first goal would repeat the trick as Bruno Fernandes would register his name on the scoresheet again as he found space in the box following a neat little dink from Paul Pogba – his 3rd assist of the game. Bruno controlled with his right and checked back on his left as Meslier committed before striking a low show,the ball was cleared off the line by the retreating Luke Ayling but it was too little too late as goal-line technology alerted referee Paul Tierney that the circumference of the ball had crossed the line.
Manchester United were having fun here in front of their fans,strutting their stuff, producing neat interplay and attacking fluidity stretching the Leeds United defence with a variation of runs leaving them in 6’s and 7’s. Bruno Fernandes’ impressed with his off the ball running, playing off the shoulder of the last defender and it was this movement that ensured the attacking midfielder completed an opening day hat-trick after his brilliant run was spotted by Swedish centre back Victor Lindelof with a simple ball over the top,Bruno then hit the sweet spot with his instep into the top left corner sending the Stretford End into rapture.
3 quick goals in 8 minutes as Manchester United took the game by the scruff of its neck but they were not done just yet. Paul Pogba,already on a hat trick of assists,would pull the strings again and set up midfielder Fred in the 68th minute with an enticing cutback which the Brazilian caressed with a cushioned finish sending Illan Meslier the wrong way. Manchester United were in dreamland as Fred’s finish put the gloss on a great team display.
Credit to their teammates but this was the Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes’ show as the duo racked up 4 assists and 3 goals respectively,sending out a warning to Premier League rivals with a resounding opening day “catch us if you can” statement win.
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