The fallen giants at last looked something like the club that last saw three goals in a game by the same player when the great Alex Ferguson was in charge, and it was pretty much all down to the finishing prowess of Martial.
Anthony Martial struck Manchester United’s first Premier League hat-trick in seven long years as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men crushed Sheffield United at an empty Old Trafford on Wednesday night and close the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to two points.
The French forward got things going after only six minutes when he tapped in Marcus Rashford pass from close range. The second was almost an action replay, with the assist coming from Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The match was over as a contest when Martial completed his first professional hat-trick by chipping over goalkeeper Simon Moore.
United can now turn their attentions to catching Chelsea in fourth place, while Sheffield, who remain eighth, have suffered since the season resumed and their dreams of European football are dwindling fast.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa were the big winners in the battle to avoid the drop — sort of. A late goal secured a draw against Newcastle, while relegation rivals Bournemouth (in free fall) and Norwich (all but down) lost 1-0 to Wolves and Everton respectively.
Only a point separates Watford in 16th and Villa in 19th, and it will be two of West Ham, Watford, Villa and Bournemouth who will be joining Norwich in the Championship.
Silver lining for City
Meanwhile, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is prioritising more realistic silverware rather than postponing Liverpool’s coronation as Premier League champions.
While it is only a matter of time before Jurgen Klopp’s men claim the Premier LEague title for the first time, regardless of City’s result against Chelsea on Thursday night, Guardiola’s side could still add the FA Cup and Uefa Champions League trophies to the English League Cup they have already retained this Covid-19-prolonged season.
City face Newcastle in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend and hold a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid before their second-leg clash at home in August.
“We have to see day-by-day. We have two incredibly important games we have in the next period, which are Newcastle and especially Madrid,” Guardiola said.
City have made an impressive return to action with comprehensive victories over Arsenal and Burnley over the past week, despite Guardiola making eight changes between the games. “Still the team is not fit for players to play 90 minutes every three days,” said Guardiola. “We cannot deny we have one eye in the Newcastle game. It is a final for us.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he expects to face a German-style side when they take on Southampton thanks to the aggressive, pressing game plan implemented by their coach Ralph Hasenhuettl.
“They’re a very German side,” Arteta said. “They’re aggressive, good on the counter-press, good on transition. They know what they’re doing.” Arteta also announced he has rewarded defender David Luiz with a new one-year contract, despite the Brazilian making several high-profile errors since arriving at the Emirates.
Man Utd 3 Sheff Utd 0
Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 1
Norwich 0 Everton 1
Wolves 1 Bournemouth 0
Burnley v Watford, 9pm
Southampton v Arsenal, 9pm
Chelsea v Manchester City, 11.15pm