Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba starred as Manchester United got their season off to the perfect start with a 5-1 thrashing of rivals Leeds United in front of a returning capacity crowd.
The major story in the pre-match build up for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side was the inclusion of £73m man Jadon Sancho on the bench, with fellow summer signing Raphael Varane not involved, albeit with the Frenchman announced to the home crowd prior to kick-off.
Buoyed by that raucous Old Trafford support, it was the hosts who made the better start. First coming close through Mason Greenwood’s deflected effort which Ilian Meslier was forced to claw away, Paul Pogba then perhaps should have done better with his left-footed effort just moments later.
As ever, Leeds remained a threat on the break, yet it was United who deservedly took the lead on 30 minutes, a delightful Pogba flick putting Bruno Fernandes in on goal, the Portuguese playmaker duly slotting home via the legs of the opposition stopper.
While it was a lively first-half, the game really sparked into life in a relentless start to the second period, Leeds’ Luke Ayling drawing his side level with a stunning long-range effort, before United hit back quickly with a breathtaking counter-attack, Pogba teeing up Greenwood who typically fired home from an acute angle.
Just two minutes later and that lead was extended, Pogba once again the provider as Fernandes added his second of the match with a drilled left footed finish that just about edged over the line despite Ayling’s clearance.
The Red Devils talisman then wrapped up his hat-trick on 60 minutes, latching onto an exquisite Victor Lindelof pass and firing high past Meslier into the roof of the net, before Fred added the gloss on the scoreline moments later with a rare goal following yet another Pogba assist.
The was also to be the introduction of new man Sancho late on, yet that proved to be the end of the drama as the home side coasted to a thumping opening day win.
The victory was made all the more special by the return of a capacity crowd at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ for the first time since March 2020, with hat-trick hero and man of the match Fernandes dedicating the win to the returning fans, although he also insisted that United’s main focus is now on the next game against Southampton.
“Great performance by the team,” Bruno told BBC Sport.
”Having the fans back gave them this joy and against a big rival like Leeds. Today was almost a perfect day, we conceded one goal but whatever we won and that is the moment important.
“I am really happy for all the fans, all the fans in the entire world of football. They have the chance to see their clubs and enjoy the games. It is important for society, they deserve this. They deserve some freedom because almost two years it has been tough for everyone.
“We have to do better and perform better all the time. Now this game is gone and from now we have to think game by game. The biggest contender for us for the title is [next opponent] Southampton because if we win against then we are one step closer to winning something and if we lose to them we are one step further.
“The joy is really good (for a hat-trick). I will call my wife and hear my kids saying ‘the ball is coming home’. It is unbelievable, you cannot describe this feeling. For me the most important thing is to make my family proud of what I am doing.”