Man Utd earned another impressive Champions League win in their feared ‘Group of Death’ as clinical finishing proved the difference against RB Leipzig.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gambled by leaving Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford out of his starting XI in favour of Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek – but it paid off.
Indeed it was Pogba who played a big part in United’s opener, driving forward with purpose before releasing Mason Greenwood in behind to score with a low left-footed drive.
Solskjaer then chucked on the aforementioned duo as substitutes in the second half, who then combined for United’s second.
Rashford skipped clear to tuck Fernandes’ pass away for United’s second before blasting in the third just moments later to put the tie out of Leipzig’s reach.
United were not done yet though, as Anthony Martial then converted a penalty after being fouled in the box, before Rashford sealed his treble after Edinson Cavani had had a goal ruled out for offside.
Here are the talking points.
1. Strength in depth
The thought of leaving both Fernandes and Rashford on the bench for a clash against last season’s Champions League semi-finalists is one which would previously have filled United fans with dread.
But the fact the Red Devils were still able to put out a strong lineup with a number of good options on the bench shows the improvement in the depth of their squad.
It’s a luxury only the top teams can afford to be able to bring players such as van de Beek and Pogba in as replacements, as well as having Edinson Cavani among the substitutes.
Plus with a crunch fixture with Arsenal up next, United should have plenty of fresh legs come Sunday.
2. Rough diamond
With the inclusion of van de Beek in the starting XI, Solskjaer opted to alter his system slightly by incorporating a diamond midfield.
The Dutchman played well through the centre at the tip of United’s midfield, with Pogba, Fred and Matic in behind.
United looked solid defensively as a result, giving little away through the middle of the park to Leipzig, who operated a 3-5-2 with wing-backs.
When necessary, Fred and Pogba closed the ball down out wide, as United’s quartet hunted as a pack to regain possession high up the field – which worked a treat, as they were able to release Martial and Greenwood quickly on the break.
A lot has been made about how Solskjaer can fit his stars into one lineup. This could well be the answer.
3. Pogba pulls the strings
This could be another false dawn. Another fleeting glimpse of what Paul Pogba can do when he’s truly at the races.
Or maybe, this could be what United have been waiting patiently for.
Pogba’s United career has been so stop-start, with injuries plaguing his availability under Solskjaer, and his form often so hit and miss.
This season has so far been little different.
But the Frenchman was back to his best against Leipzig, pulling the strings and showcasing the talents we know are in there but are rarely expressed in totality.
Pogba was at the centre of all United’s good play and seemed to thrive in the diamond system.
It was his perfectly weighted ball which set up Greenwood’s goal, and he made several more incisive passes and key contributions, while not being afraid to do the dirty work in midfield.
That’s more like it.
4. No mistake from Greenwood
It’s been a difficult start to the campaign for United’s prodigal talent, but make no mistake, if you give him a chance he will score.
The teenager showed good movement to race off the back of Dayot Upamecano – breaking Leipzig’s offside line – before applying the first time finish across goal to put United in front.
It was a textbook goal for a player who has become so reliable for United in those areas.
United legends were full of praise for Greenwood before the match, with Paul Scholes labelling him the best finisher out of the club’s crop of attackers, while Rio Ferdinand tipped him to go “right to the top.”
You can’t imagine there are many who would argue.
5. Unplayable Rashford
Not content with being a superstar off the field, Marcus Rashford came off the bench to clinch all three points for United with a hat-trick.
After being a surprise inclusion amongst the subs, the 22-year-old took just 15 minutes after coming on to put the game beyond Leipzig.
First he broke clear of the offside trap before sidefooting past the keeper and surviving a subsequent VAR check.
Rashford then evaded one tackle before lashing the ball hard into the bottom corner.
He almost had a third when he danced through the Leipzig defence, who were falling to pieces, only for his effort on goal to be blocked.
As if he couldn’t be more of a gentleman already, Rashford then gave up a chance of a hat-trick from the spot so Martial could get off the mark this season.
But his chivalry was rewarded as he bagged his treble to take the match ball home in injury-time.
A class act.