Football: Martial treble keeps Manchester United in top-four hunt

Martial (left) celebrates with team mate Paul Pogba after scoring his third goal.
Martial (left) celebrates with team mate Paul Pogba after scoring his third goal.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (REUTERS) - Anthony Martial scored Manchester United's first Premier League hat-trick for seven years to inspire a 3-0 home win over Sheffield United on Wednesday (June 24) and maintain their hopes of a top-four finish.

The French forward's first career treble was the first by a United player in the league since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after they won their record 20th league title.

United stayed fifth in the standings on 49 points from 31 games, two behind fourth-placed Chelsea whose game in hand is a home clash with champions Manchester City on Thursday.

Martial linked up to devastating effect with Marcus Rashford up front as United, playing at Old Trafford for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic halted the league in mid-March, dismantled the visitors.

The Frenchman scored two similar goals in the opening half, firing United into a seventh-minute lead when he reacted instinctively with his weaker left foot after good work by Rashford on the right.

After Rashford and Bruno Fernandes went close as United dominated, Martial made it 2-0 in the 44th minute when he steered home a low Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross amid more static defending by the visitors.

Mason Greenwood's deflected shot sailed inches wide of the post before Martial capped a fine performance with a superb finish, dinking the ball over goalkeeper Simon Moore from another Rashford assist.

The hosts missed chances to add to their tally as substitute Odion Ighalo was denied by Moore and the lively Wan-Bissaka dragged his shot from 10 metres wide of the far post.