Having dominated headlines off the pitch this week, Marcus Rashford snatched the headlines on it with a quickfire hat-trick as Manchester United recorded a 5-0 thumping over last season’s Champions League semi-finalists RB Leipzig.
Manchester United were uninspiring in their drab goalless draw with Chelsea at the weekend, though they made a much more positive start on Wednesday night, Mason Greenwood latching on to a Paul Pogba through-ball to slot home in his usual calm style having just about remained onside in the 21st minute.
In truth, the Bundesliga side shaded possession before the break, though defensive duo Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof were relatively untroubled, while full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka looked his usual impenetrable self as Leipzig struggled to create any real threat.
The second half saw United beginning to look more fluid, especially following the introduction of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford from the bench. Those two men were soon in the thick of the action, Fernandes sliding a delightful ball through to the England international who duly slotted home.
The 22-year-old soon had a second, nicking the ball around Dayot Upamecano before smashing home past a helpless Peter Gulacsi to make it three, and soon after, the Red Devils added a fourth, with Anthony Martial winning and converting from the penalty spot – Rashford opting out of taking the spot-kick despite being on a hat-trick.
The man of the moment didn’t have to wait long to complete his treble, however, Martial bursting into the box before teeing up Rashford to wrap up a fantastic individual and collective night for Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s side.
27 – @MarcusRashford became just the fifth player in @ChampionsLeague history to score a hat-trick as a substitute, with his 27 minutes on the pitch the fewest number played whilst also netting a treble in the competition’s history. Leader. #UCL pic.twitter.com/clfOjJw1wf
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 28, 2020
Speaking afterwards however, the United man was quick to highlight the ‘team performance’ that saw them brutally overcome Julian Nagelsmann’s side.
“I think the manager wanted me to up the tempo,” he told BT Sport. “That for us means going forward. There was definitely spaces there. We got Bruno [Fernandes] and Paul [Pogba] on the ball. We looked dangerous throughout and that we could score every time we went forward.
“It was a real team performance. The ones who started did well and the substitutes did well too. We can’t ask for much more than that in terms of the attitude and the intent to go and kill the game off. It worked in our favour.
It was also a pleasing night for fellow academy graduate Mason Greenwood, with the 19-year-old netting his first Champions League goal with what was just his first-ever shot in the competition – a fact that did not come as much of a surprise to teammate Rashford.
“Not surprising. He’s a top player. He needs to keep his head down and keep working hard. He will be an unbelievable player for us.”
After the tight offside decision of Greenwood’s opener, United once again faced an agonising wait to see if Rashford had added a second, the linesman flagging for offside before VAR ruled the versatile forward was in fact in his own half when the ball from Fernandes was played.
“I thought I was in my own half so I was a bit confused when the flag went off. All we can do is wait and see when the ball is in the net. We have to work with VAR now, it’s part of our game. The quicker we get used to it, the better.”
After a week in which the Englishman has already showcased his outstanding generosity off the pitch, he also showed a great deal on it, allowing teammate Martial to take the spot-kick despite being on a hat-trick. While it was another act of kindness in the end from Rashford, he did hint that there was a little bit of a discussion initially as to who should step up to take the penalty.
"Messi and Ronaldo ain't giving a pen away!"
"That's why he'll be the captain, he thinks of others."
Two schools of thought on Marcus Rashford allowing Anthony Martial to take a pen despite being on a hat-trick 😂 pic.twitter.com/ESQQb3MU64
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 28, 2020
“A little bit, a little bit,” he said. “I feel confident with Anthony taking them as well. So no problem.
“It’s about the next game now so it’s important for us to get three points.”
The result leaves Manchester United top of Group H with six points out of six, and next up for the Red Devils is a home game against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.