CARDIFF, WALES – Manchester United was stunning and Manchester City was stunned.
United responded to a change in coach by producing a rampant display to thrash lowly Cardiff 5-1 on Saturday, hours after English Premier League leader City slumped to a first defeat at home, 3-2 against struggling Crystal Palace.
Former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who returned to United as manager in midweek after Jose Mourinho was sacked, appeared to give the team a new lease of life as it turned on the style in the Welsh capital.
The last time United scored five goals was in Alex Ferguson’s last match in charge in May 2013, a 5-5 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
Solskjaer insisted having “good players” was the key to his instant impact as Manchester United’s caretaker manager.
“They are very good players, talented players, they’ve approached the game properly and worked hard. A Man United team should never be outworked,” said Solskjaer.
As well as getting Solskjaer off to a flying start, victory also sees United close the gap on the top four to eight points thanks to Chelsea’s 1-0 home defeat by Leicester earlier in the day.
“We’re eight points behind, so our job is to take one game at a time,” added Solskjaer.
“We always play well in the second half of the season.”
Marcus Rashford needed only three minutes to give United the lead as he blasted home a free kick from 25 meters.
Solskjaer, who spent nine months in charge of Cardiff when the Welsh club was relegated in 2014, was up off his touchline seat again after 29 minutes when Ander Herrera’s deflected shot went in.
Rashford was then deemed to have handled in the box and Victor Camarasa converted the penalty for Cardiff.
But there was no stopping United, and Anthony Martial rounded off an excellent move to make it 3-1 before halftime.
Lingard added a fourth goal from the penalty spot after being fouled in the 57th, and the England forward capped a wonderful display by the visitors when he struck again in the closing stages.
The visiting fans enthusiastically chanted Solskjaer’s name throughout and were enjoying their side moving the ball around with a speed and accuracy more reminiscent of his days as a player at Old Trafford, when United dominated English soccer.
“It’s nothing like they have been playing,” said Cardiff boss Neil Warnock. “We expected that from the teamsheet.”
Paul Pogba started for the first time in four league games and looked far more like the player United splashed a then world-record £89 million ($113 million) on in 2016 than the one that clashed with his former boss off the field and disappointed on it for much of the past two seasons.
“The performance of the team was great and we are happy that the first game of the manager starts like this,” said Pogba. “It’s important now to carry on like that.
“We can not play like this and win with five goals and then the next game lose.”
Meanwhile, City’s loss brought to an end its 100 percent home record in the league, and left leader Liverpool four points clear at the top after 18 rounds.
In another upset, former England striker Jamie Vardy scored to help Leicester hand Chelsea its first loss at home.
Arsenal drew level on points with Chelsea after easing past Burnley 3-1.
Southampton won for the second successive match under new coach Ralph Hasenhuttl when it defeated Huddersfield 3-1, while Watford ended West Ham’s run of four consecutive victories by winning 2-0 at London Stadium .