MANCHESTER (REUTERS) - Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes scored two each as Manchester United turned on the style, thumping Leeds United 6-2 at Old Trafford on Sunday (Dec 20) to move up to third in the Premier League.
United are now on 26 points, above Everton on goal difference and trail from leaders Liverpool by five points, having played a game less.
It was the best display this season from United who responded to Leeds' well known pressing game and relentless running by playing through the press with crisp, swift passing and matching Marcelo Bielsa's side for work-rate.
It had been 16 years since the two Northern rivals had met at Old Trafford in the top flight and United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could not help but reflect how a crowd might have reacted.
"Just imagine if there were 75,000 people in, it would have gone down in history as one of the great performances against Leeds," said the Norwegian whose team executed a clear game-plan almost perfectly.
"We had to earn the right by running as much as them, that's a challenge. It could have been 12-4! It was that kind of game," he said.
McTominay fired United ahead after 67 seconds in emphatic fashion with a thundering low drive from outside the box after he had set up by Bruno Fernandes.
The midfielder then became the first player to score twice in the opening three minutes of a Premier League match when he collected a clever pass from Anthony Martial and beat Illan Meslier with a left-foot finish.
Fernandes made it 3-0 in the 20th minute, drilling home after the ball fell to him at the back post, after a swift United counter-attack.
Victor Lindelof added the fourth in the 37th minute, converting at the back post after Martial had flicked on a Luke Shaw corner. But Leeds gave themselves a small foothold in the game when defender Liam Cooper headed in a Raphinha corner, four minutes before the break.
That goal gave Marcelo Bielsa's team some encouragement for the second half and United keeper David De Gea had to be at his sharpest to keep out a Raphina header.
But United put the game beyond Bielsa's side when the impressive McTominay found Dan James with crisp pass and the Welsh forward beat Meslier at his near post. Fernandes added United's sixth - and his second - from the penalty spot in the 70th minute after Martial had been brought down in the box by Pascal Struijk.
Still Leeds continued to push forward in numbers and they were rewarded when Stuart Dallas beat De Gea with a wonderful curling shot from over 20 metres out.
With an animated Bielsa still urging his team forward despite being 6-2 down, Leeds left space for United to exploit and it was only a series of fine saves from Meslier that stopped an even heavier loss.
Leeds striker Patrick Bamford said the performance was simply well below the standards Bielsa expects from his team.
"I'm almost glad the fans weren't allowed in to watch because it would have felt even worse sending them home after watching that.
It's tough because 6-2 - it could have 6-6 if you're an optimistic Leeds fan or it could have been 10-2. We couldn't do ourselves justice," he said.
United had not scored more than five goals in a Premier League game since their 8-2 win over Arsenal in August 2011.