June 24, 2020 / 7:13 PM / 13 days ago

Martial treble keeps Man United in top-four hunt

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 and maintain their hopes of a top-four finish.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United v Sheffield United - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - June 24, 2020 Manchester United's Anthony Martial in action with Sheffield United's Sander Berge, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Michael Steele/Pool via REUTERS

The French forward’s maiden career treble was also 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 was delighted after taking his league tally to 12 goals, surpassing his previous record of 11 amassed in the 2015-16 season.

“I feel very good, it’s the first hat-trick in my career,” he told Manchester United television.

“I’m happy because the team played very good today. (Marcus Rashford) gave me one or two assists today, so the most important thing is to win. I tried to give him a chance to score, no competition, we just want to win.”

Martial linked up to devastating effect with Rashford 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.

Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond

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