The force grows ever stronger as Manchester United maintain their push to reach the top four and with it grab a Champions League spot for next season. The force in question in a 3-0 win over a dismal Sheffield United came from the simply irrepressible Anthony Martial.
The striker showed his delight on grabbing a hat-trick on the night to leave the Red Devils in fifth position in the league standings and just two points behind Chelsea who are currently occupying fourth spot.
United, however, have now played a game more than the Blues, though Frank Lampard’s men get the chance to extend the gap once more when they take on Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night. United fans the world over will hope their city rivals can do them a favour by notching a victory, of course.
The win was the first for Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men since football returned following the three-month suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic; the triumph came after United snatched a well-earned point in a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Friday night.
Before the game the spotlight very much fell on midfield general Paul Pogba with fans and pundits alike keen to see just how his game has developed since the lockdown; before that he was side-lined for so long through injury. He did well and played his part to be fair. But on the night, it was all about Martial and surely the French marksman has done his chances of securing the main goal-getter’s role no harm thanks to his treble. Tellingly and to throw the spotlight on United’s lack of dominance in recent years, Robin van Persie was the last Red Devils ace to score a treble in the league.
All of his goals came in the box and showed just how deadly he is when it comes to sniffing out strikes in the danger area.
He scored the first of his three goals after just seven minutes and waited until just a minute before the break to nab his second. His third, the best of his trio, came after 74 minutes when he stayed calm and measured to delightfully chip the ball in and effectively seal the deal at the Theatre of Dreams.
The stadium was, of course empty with supporters not allowed in to cheer on their idols because of the guidelines surrounding sports events amid the fallout from the Covid-19 situation. But former United full-back Gary Neville, commentating on the game for Sky Sports, said he felt that his old club had done the best job yet of dressing up the ground to try to give it a less eerie feel. The 40,000 depictions of supporters’ images on seats around the famous old stadium helped massively it has to be said.
Next up for United is a trip to rock-bottom Norwich City and the very real prospect of collecting another three points to maintain their Champions League hopes.