Clinical Martial pleases Solskjaer

Anthony Martial scoring his and Manchester United's second goal against Sheffield United. The Frenchman later completed a hat-trick.
Anthony Martial scoring his and Manchester United's second goal against Sheffield United. The Frenchman later completed a hat-trick.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saluted Anthony Martial's improved killer instinct after his hat-trick fired Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Sheffield United on Wednesday.

Martial struck twice in the first half and completed his first senior treble after the interval at Old Trafford. The French forward is the first United player to score a Premier League hat-trick since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.

His heroics stole the spotlight from Paul Pogba, who was making his first United start since Sept 30 and followed up his headline-grabbing performance against Tottenham with another good showing.

Solskjaer's side, unbeaten in their last 13 games in all competitions, remain in fifth place on 49 points.

"Very happy for Anthony. The third goal was a great goal, but for me the first and the second were better," he said.

"He's in the box, ready to go. We have worked on that, getting in the box in that situation more often. At the near post he showed composure. The first goal was vital, the way he turns and gets himself into a position to score from the cross.

"I'm very pleased with that. He's in good form."

Martial's clinical finishing ensured United built on last Friday's draw at Tottenham, but Pogba's confident return in his 10th appearance of an injury-ravaged campaign was also encouraging for Solskjaer.

The midfielder came off the bench to deliver an influential cameo against Tottenham, winning the penalty that Bruno Fernandes converted. Once again, he linked up well with the Portuguese.

"Paul and Bruno showed some quality and it's exciting for us to be working with talent like this," Solskjaer said. "At times it was very good football. We could and should have scored more goals."

Martial also weighed in on the Pogba-Fernandes partnership that has United fans believing their team can contend for the title next season.

 
 
 

"They're top players," he said. "In training we practised the link-up a lot, today was a very good game, we created a lot of chances."

Martial has benefited from Fernandes' arrival from Sporting Lisbon, scoring six goals in seven games as the Portuguese helped to fill the creative void.

Martial and Marcus Rashford both need only one more goal to each hit 20 for the season. Those milestones would mark the first time since Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez in 2010-11 that United have two players with 20.

Former England striker Alan Shearer believes United have found their attacking swagger again.

"There are definitely big improvements, particularly going forward in the number of players they were committing," he told the BBC. "At times, they had five or six players... They're certainly playing with confidence."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2020, with the headline 'Clinical Martial pleases Solskjaer'. Print Edition | Subscribe