The afternoon started in dramatic fashion as the returning crowd, filled to the rafters, was treated to a suited and booted Raphael Varane finally confirming his transfer to the Red Devils. There was still a football match to be played and a massive one at that. The War of the Roses played out in a Premier League fixture, this time with an actual crowd for the first time in years.
In ended with both sides scoring one less goal than this same fixture last season, the 6-2 thriller. Bruno opened proceedings and the first half came to a close in a sparring fashion but with United on top. Then the floodgates opened. Ayling smashed a stunner in to level it. Greenwood dispatched to put The Red Devils back in control. Bruno quickly followed it up and then did so again, to get him that hat trick. Fred would score the last goal of the match to make a happy return for the fans and great opening fixture for Solskjaer’s men.
Rabbit out of the hat
5 days ago, the fifth year of Pogback happened. It meant that the video of the announcement, where he and Stormzy danced in celebration, was wheeled out. Many said that was the highest point of the Frenchman’s return to Old Trafford. It goes to show how much people can let the outside cloud of punditry and off the field shroud their opinions. Hopefully after today, there will be better appreciation of Paul Pogba and the quality that will be missed if he were not to sign a contract to extend his stay.
He played in the left wing position again, something he done quite regularly the season before. Of course, he would not play like a touchline winger and the space he vacated would allow Luke Shaw to bomb on outside him. The pockets he would pick up caused Leeds all sorts of problems as the man marking system meant that Ayling would be dragged inside into uncomfortable positions. That left half space, the one in which people judge as his best position, was a constantly filled with Pogba and it allowed for the progression up the pitch and he had his usual ball reception. He missed an earlier chance, an ostentatious step over before hitting it with the left, was skewed past Meslier’s right hand post. In possession, there were signs of sloppiness and blind alleyway running. For the Ayling stunner, Pogba let him run off the back of him.
A whole 90 minutes without mistakes is nigh on impossible. When you’re able to lay on 4 assists for your team mates, it’s that much easier to forgive those things. The first, a lovely first time clipped pass in behind that Bruno latched onto in a similar fashion to Nani vs Man City in 2010/11. The second, a long through ball that Greenwood arrowed into the opposite corner. The third, a slide pass that Bruno pirouetted on before he put in, with the assistance of Goal Line Technology. The fourth a cut back ball thatFred caressed into the back of the net. With each assist Pogba gave to Bruno, the Portuguese man pointed as a sign of appreciation. The second he even made sure to gesture to the crowd and it goes to show the comradeship between the two.
All in open play
A significant mention for a hat trick hero then required. Feeding off the energy of the crowd, one that he has seldom played in front of in his time at the club, Fernandes rewarded the faithful with a wonderful hat trick. The aforementioned two were typical of the attacking midfielder and a wonderful back to front pass from Lindelof was absolutely smashed into the back of the net on the half volley that Meslier had absolutely no chance of saving.
After his disappointing Euros and the way in which the Europa League final transpired, despite his club high 28 goals, the doubts around Bruno began to get louder. His general play can be erratic, both in its execution and decision, so the view can become his worth is intrinsically linked to whether he produces on the day or not. But when he does it with the regularity that he does, then the argument might just be moot. There is still improvements to be made so that he does this in the biggest games, when he won’t have the number of possessions to play in the brute force way in which he creates. There’s also a doubt about whether a more possessive side, one that has more of a structure or one where he could be playing deeper in a 4-3-3 will benefit him. That is still to be seen but a MOTM award for Bruno is a perfect start to a season in which United a seek to finally get over the line and complete the transition back to the top.
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