Sheffield United toiled hard in the heat of Old Trafford but were no match for the attacking might of Manchester United, losing 3-0.
The Blades have now picked up just one point from their three games since the re-start, and risk falling further down the table.
Starting the game just two points behind the hosts, Chris Wilder’s men had the opportunity to steal a march ahead of their rivals. A result that might have been possible in March quickly looked out of reach.
Simon Moore and Phil Jagielka came in for the on-loan Dean Henderson and the suspended John Egan, while Jack O’Connell continues to remain on the sidelines. The absence of three key performers this season had a natural impact.
In the seventh minute, Anthony Martial finished the low cross of Marcus Rashford at the near post, giving the hosts an early lead. It was nearly made 2-0 soon after when Martial was on goal and elected to pass to Rashford who was unable to score in front of an open goal.
United kept the pressure going. A Bruno Fernandes free-kick tested Moore. A Pogba dink towards Rashford caused the Englishman to stab at it without his usual composure. Harry Maguire headed past Moore but was penalized for a foul on Jagielka.
Just before half-time, Martial made it two, smashing in an Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross in a similar way to his first. It was unfortunate for the Blades, who had enjoyed a better spell post the first drinks break.
The second-half saw Wilder bring on Oli McBurnie and Sander Berge for the out-of-touch Lys Mousset and Oliver Norwood. The former had the best chance for the visitors, with a header blocked by Wan-Bissaka as it headed on target.
United kept the pressure going around the opposition box. Pogba had one moment of brilliance where he dribbled past three Sheffield United defenders only for Martial to steal it off him at the last shot, to no effect.
But he would not be denied his third goal. He teamed up with Rashford in the 74th minute in a one-two, coolly dinking it past Moore to secure his first senior career hat-trick. It would also be Manchester United’s first hat-trick since Robin van Persie in 2013.
From that point, the game was purely academic. Solskjaer became the first manager to make a quintuple substitution. Substitute Odion Ighalo had the chance to make it 4-0 but was unable to at the end.
There is no need for Sheffield United to panic yet. They’ve had a great season and a loss at Old Trafford is not the end of the world. But they need to recover their form in order to finish the season strong. After three away games, the return to Bramall Lane should help.
Manchester United: De Gea; Shaw, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Matic, Pogba (Pereira 80’); Rashford (James 80’), Fernandes (McTominay 80’), Greenwood (Mata 81’); Martial (Ighalo 80’). Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Williams, Fred.
Sheffield United: Moore; Robinson, Jagielka, Basham; Stevens, Fleck, Norwood (Berge 45’), Lundstram, Baldock; Mousset (McBurnie 45’), McGoldrick (Zivkovic 64’). Subs not used: Verrips, Rodwell, Osborn, Kieron Freeman, Luke Freeman, Sharp.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Bookings: Manchester United: Shaw
Sheffield United: NIL
Scorers: Manchester United: Martial (7’, 44’, 74’)
HT: 2 – 0
FT: 3 – 0
Man of the Match: Anthony Martial