STYLISH SOLSKJAER RETURNS TO HAUNT BLUEBIRDS
SO, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can win a game of football – and in style – at Cardiff City Stadium. Unfortunately for Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds, he was in the away dugout as Manchester United produced an inspired display of attacking football to triumph.
Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard were all on the scoresheet, with Victor Camarasa’s penalty the only consolation for Cardiff on a chastening evening in the Welsh capital.
The Solskjaer reign could hardly have got off to a better start as Rashford smashed a free-kick beyond a statuesque Neil Etheridge inside the opening four minutes.
It had come from an Aron Gunnarsson trip on Paul Pogba, the mercurial midfielder who had been recalled by Solskjaer, lining up alongside Martial, Rashford and Lingard in a formidable-looking United attack.
For the opening 20 minutes, the Red Devils looked liberated, Martial charging at Bruno Manga and caus- ing problems from the word go.
For a time, it seemed Cardiff had weathered the storm, with the chances drying up for United. But Pogba was at the heart of their second, finding Herrera with a fine pass for the Spaniard to strike into the top corner via a deflection off Greg Cunningham.
Cardiff got a lifeline towards the end of the first half when Rashford controlled with his arm in the United box and Michael Oliver – who’d previously received a torrent of abuse from the home fans – pointed to the spot.
Camarasa kept his head from 12 yards to give the Bluebirds hope. But no sooner had the ball nestled in David De Gea’s net than United were responding almost instantly with a fine team goal.
It involved Lingard, Pogba, Rashford and Martial and was almost dizzying to watch, with the latter stroking into the corner.
United continued where they left off when the game resumed after the break.
Lingard’s mazy run dumbfounded the Cardiff defence and drew the foul from Sol Bamba, with Oliver given another easy decision to give the penalty. Lingard duly converted from the spot.
Warnock reintroduced Kenneth Zohore - for the first time since an October substitute appearance against Liverpool - as the Bluebirds’ chances dwindled.
Josh Murphy forced De Gea into a good save, seconds after Rashford had spurned a great chance to make it 5-1.
United had further chances, with Pogba tested Etheridge with a curler and Phil Jones firing at the goalkeeper, with Bamba nodding a gaping chance wide for the hosts.
And, despite some late spirit from the Bluebirds, Solskjaer was able to sit even more comfortably as Lingard rounded Etheridge to tuck home a fifth and complete a triumphant return to Cardiff City for the Norwegian.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates a dream start to his Man Utd reign
Anthony Martial is congratulated on United’s third goal by Jesse Lingard, who would add the fourth and fifth for the visitors
Victor Camarasa scores from the penalty spot for the Bluebirds