Manchester United 5-0 RB Leipzig: Solskjaer's diamond experiment reaps great European rewards
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group H stage match between Manchester United and RB Leipzig at Old Trafford on October 28, 2020 in Manchester, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Manchester United are in good form. That much can be said now. Champions League victories against Paris Saint-Germain - last season's finalists and French champions - and now RB Leipzig - last season's semi-finalists and leaders of the German Bundesliga - confirm it.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started with an unfamiliar diamond formation as opposed to the five-at-the-back set-up that helped United to beat PSG last week. It worked just as well.

Mason Greenwood became the third-youngest player to ever score in Europe's elite club competition for United. Marcus Rashford scored a stunning hat-trick off the bench and Anthony Martial hit a late penalty to take part in what was ultimately a thrashing.

It's a seriously impressive result from United. RB Leipzig were unbeaten away from home in last season's Champions League and sit top of the Bundesliga. United made things look easy in the second half and now have a real chance to progress through their group as winners with six points from two games.

Story of the game

This was an intense Champions League game. The noise that accompanied it should have been greater than the clattering of boots in a tunnel, the hoarse shouts of an RB Leipzig director in a box and the desperate pleas of 'ref' from some of the world's best footballers. The game was good but football misses its supporters and this was yet another example of that.

Manchester United started with a new formation. Donny van de Beek played at the tip of a midfield diamond in which Nemanja Matic and Fred provided defensive covering in deep areas and Paul Pogba thrived in an attacking role on the left-wing. The Frenchman was one of a few, including van de Beek, to be given a chance from the start after a few weeks on the bench. He impressed.

Pogba worked hard, harrying Leipzig midfielders and tracking back. On the right of United's midfield, Fred was an impassable force. His forward passing can be, and was, erratic but when it comes to the defensive side of things - especially off the ball - he's a key player.

Both sides attacked well. Leipzig had the majority of possession and United countered whenever they could. Shaw had a long-range drive tipped past the post for a corner and Fred's effort soon after was blocked.

United let Leipzig have the ball in their own half but their team press kicked into motion as soon as the German side moved into United's half. Fred won his team the ball, pushed it forward to a galloping Pogba who paused. Greenwood ran ahead. Pogba's pass was timed and weighted perfectly. Greenwood finished superbly. He had a centimetre in which to place his shot so as to evade Gulácsi's outstretched left hand but keep it inside the right post of his goal. He found that gap and became the third United youngest goalscorer in the history of the competition [behind Wayne Rooney and Brian Kidd].

VAR delayed the re-start. Greenwood was millimetres from being offside. Leipzig responded well and maintained their dominance of possession. De Gea pushed a powerful drive from Nkunku for a corner immediately after. That wasn't their last attack of the half but they rarely created a clear chance. Angelino had a volley blocked by Wan-Bissaka and Leipzig's midfielders lined up shots from the edge of the area time after time but none caused serious problems.

Nagelsmann's side increased the pressure after the break but United continued to create too. Greenwood slammed a right-footer into the goalkeeper's palms while Martial was played through thrice without testing Gulácsi. At the other end, Maguire, Shaw and Matic hooked away teasing balls from the wings.

The one they couldn't clear seemed to hang in the air. Konaté waited for it to fall before directing it at De Gea's goal from point-blank range but a tight angle. The roar of anticipation missing, chances like that seem to take an age to complete. Konaté stared at De Gea but the Spaniard kept his eyes on the ball and reacted, springing himself to his right to parry it for a corner.

Rashford, McTominay and Fernandes replaced Greenwood, Matic and van de Beek in like-for-like substitutions. Leipzig brought on Sabitzer and Sorloth for Henrichs and Nkunku. The end-to-end rhythm of the game hardly changed. Nevertheless, even with very few spectators in attendance, there was still an audible noise of awe when Bruno Fernandes delicately chipped a free-kick over the Leipzig wall for Martial to attack. It was a throwback to the pair's combination against City last season. The Frenchman's right boot couldn't quite steer it past Gulácsi but it was a beautifully worked set-piece.

Within five minutes, Fernandes provided another moment of class. Receiving the ball from Fred, he turned first time and - with brilliant awareness - played Rashford into a whole half of space. He ran, and ran, and kept his composure before a good finish. It was initially ruled out for offside but VAR showed Rashford was in his own half when the ball was played.

Only minutes after a strange halfway line celebration from United, it was three. Rashford again. Fred won the ball back again, gave it to Rashford who beat Konaté with good feet and finished cooly past Gulácsi once again.

With three minutes of normal time remaining, Martial made it four. Taken down by Sabitzer in the penalty area, he took the spot-kick himself and his effort was powerful, too powerful for Gulácsi to stop as it nestled in the bottom left corner.

With seconds remaining, Rashford (Dr, Mr, MBE etc) made it five for United and three for himself. It was Solskjaer-esque. Clinical off the bench. Rashford is the first United player to score a hat-trick off the bench since Solskjaer in 1999.

Takeaways from the game

More to follow...

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