This was Pogba at his all-conquering best, a domineering presence that bestrode midfield, at one point casting off Fulham’s Maxime Le Marchand with such derision that the defender was left on his backside but also controlling the game with masterful technique. He now has eight goals and five assists since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the reins.
This was not only another reminder of Pogba’s talent. It was another spell-binding audition for Solskjaer, another day where his grip on United’s future felt ever tighter. In front of the attending co-chairman Avram Glazer, Solskjaer made six changes to his line-up but still won at a canter even without Victor Lindelof, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford in the side.
For Solskjaer, the records keep coming. This was United’s fifth consecutive Premier League away win for the first time since 2012 and the first time they have won six away games in all competitions for a decade. United will remain in the top four if Chelsea lose at Manchester City today.
Solskjaer welcomed Glazer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward into the dressing room. The Norwegian said: ‘I’ve just spoken to him [Avram Glazer] outside, he came into the dressing room, they’re all happy after winning the game. The top four is a big thing. The next league game is Liverpool. So let’s make sure we stay in the top four.’
This was, also, another of those days to attract those comparisons that so irk Jose Mourinho. Anthony Martial, the player Mourinho lobbied Woodward to sell last summer, was irresistible from the left-flank and liberated from the straightjacket of the former manager, he scored a goal that underpinned the joy and expression in United’s play.
Three goals up inside 65 minutes, United’s comfort was such that Solskjaer could afford to take off Pogba and Martial with twenty minutes still on the clock. Lingard and Rashford were not used at all, with Tuesday evening’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain firmly in the manager’s mind.
Those who entered the pitch nearly added goals of their own. Alexis Sanchez was only denied by an excellent Sergio Rico save and Scott McTominay headed over.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Fulham (3-4-3): Rico 5; Odoi 5, Le Marchand 5, Ream 5; Schurrle 5 (Christie 53, 6), Chambers 6, Seri 5.5, Bryan 5 (Sessegnon 81); Vietto 5.5, Mitrovic 5, Babel 6 (Cairney 77)
Subs not used: Fabri, Anguissa, Kebano, Ayite
Booked: Bryan, Chambers, Mitrovic
Manager: Claudio Ranieri 4.5
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea 6; Dalot 6, Smalling 7, Jones 7, Shaw 7; Herrera 7.5 (Bailly 85), Matic 7.5, Pogba 8.5 (McTominay 74, 6); Mata 7, Lukaku 6, Martial 8 (Sanchez 70, 6)
Subs not used: Romero, Young, Rashford, Lingard
Booked: De Gea, Matic
Goals: Pogba 14, 65, Martial 23
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 8
Referee: Paul Tierney 6
United had already wasted a couple of breakaways down that side when Pogba scored with the away side’s first shot on goal in the 16th minute. Herrera won possession ahead of the sliding Jean-Michel Seri and worked the ball left to Martial. The Frenchman slid a reverse pass into Pogba’s path and from a tight angle, the midfielder stuck with power towards the near post, catching out goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
As United’s confidence grew, Fulham’s disappeared like water down the drain. Martial had the Fulham back three living in constant fear and this was the backdrop for the outstanding goal of the game. Jones won the ball midway inside United’s half and found Martial on the left side. He collected the ball and sauntered towards the Fulham goal, twisting and shimmying his way past Odoi and Le Marchand, resisting their clumsy attempts to haul him down and then opening up his body to finish calmly in the manner once trademarked by Thierry Henry.
Curiously, United had scored with their first two shots on goal and before they had even earned a corner-kick. In doing so, they had buried their hosts and killed the match as a contest. Fulham became overcome by jitters, passing straightforward balls out of play and constantly surrendering ball to United in their own territory.
United played the second period in third gear and for the sake of Fulham’s goal difference, it was probably a good job. Herrera’s stinging strike needed strong hands from Rico but when Juan Mata tricked Le Marchand to earn a penalty, Pogba converted the third.