MX23RW : Sunday, December 5 05:41:45| >> :120:21189:21189:
Dec 22, 2018 at 5.30pm UK at Cardiff City Stadium
Attendance: 33,028
CardiffCardiff City
Man UtdManchester United
Camarasa (38' pen.)
FT(HT: 1-3)
Rashford (3'), Herrera (29'), Martial (41'), Lingard (57' pen., 90')

Live Commentary: Cardiff City 1-5 Manchester United - as it happened

Relive Manchester United's 5-1 win over Cardiff City as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign gets off to a perfect start against his former club.

Manchester United shook off the cobwebs and produced their biggest win of the season in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first game in charge this evening as they thrashed Cardiff City 5-1 in South Wales.

The post-Jose Mourinho era got off to a perfect start when Marcus Rashford opened the scoring after only three minutes, and United looked a more confident team from the very first whistle.

Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial were also on the scoresheet either side of a Victor Camarasa penalty before half time, and a second-half brace from Jesse Lingard saw United register a five-goal haul for the first time since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Find out how all of the action unfolded courtesy of Sports Mole's minute-by-minute updates below.

Good afternoon! Well, what a week it has been in the football world - dominated by the news that Jose Mourinho was sacked as Manchester United boss on Tuesday and then replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a day later.

Today marks the first game of the post-Mourinho era, with Cardiff City the opposition in South Wales. It is a match the visitors are favourites for, but it is also one that will not be as easy as it might appear on first glance.

We will have a close look at exactly why in a short while, but first let's see who Solskjaer has chosen in his maiden United XI...

CARDIFF STARTING XI: Etheridge; Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Cunningham; Gunnarsson, Arter, Camarasa; Hoilett, Paterson, Murphy

CARDIFF SUBS: Smithies, Peltier, Ralls, Zohore, Reid, Mendez-Laing, Harris

MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial

MAN UTD SUBS: Romero, Bailly, Dalot, Pereira, Fellaini, Fred, Mata

What can we make of those two teams, then?

Well, we'll have to start with the visitors and the first thing to note is that Paul Pogba returns to the starting lineup, having been forced to watch on as an unused sub during the defeat to Liverpool last weekend.

The World Cup winner may gain more than most from the sacking of Mourinho following the breakdown of their relationship, and as he makes only his fourth league start since October, now is the time for him to really start showing what he can do in the Premier League.

Paul Pogba reacts while in action for Manchester United on September 22, 2018© Reuters

Solskjaer knows Pogba well having managed him during his time in charge of the United reserves, but he is without one of his stars this afternoon as Romelu Lukaku misses out.

The striker is understood to have been granted compassionate leave by Mourinho prior to his sacking, and he remains unavailable today which means that Marcus Rashford will leave the line for the visitors today.

Solskjaer has made four changes in all from the team which started against Liverpool last weekend, and one of those sees Anthony Martial come back in for his 100th Premier League appearance.

Martial has enjoyed spurts of good form so far this season but has tailed off a little in recent games, but he is another one of the players who may be relishing a fresh start under a new manager.

Pogba's return is another of the changes, of course, and the remaining two both come in defence as Bailly drops to the bench in favour of Phil Jones, while Dalot is replaced by the returning Luke Shaw.

Interestingly, there is no Antonio Valencia even on the bench, so his hopes of working his way back into the first-team thinking do not look great at this stage, while Smalling remains sidelined.

As for Cardiff, they are without the injured Joe Bennett, who has been struggling with a hip injury since sustained it during the defeat to Watford last weekend.

There was an outside chance that Bennett might recover in time for this one, but it would have been a risked as he had not trained all week. As it is, the fit-again Greg Cunningham replaces him at left-back.

That is the only change from Cardiff today as Neil Warnock decides to keep faith with the team which lost to Watford, with the exception of that one enforced change.

Warnock did suggest in his per-match press conference that a couple of unnamed players were suffering from "little niggles", but they clearly cannot be too serious given the lack of chopping and changing.

Bobby Reid may feel a little aggrieved having come off the bench and scored at Vicarage Road, but Callum Paterson is once again chosen to lead the line for the hosts today.

The 24-year-old is Cardiff's top scorer with four league goals this season and will hope to trouble what has been a very leaky United defence this season.

In Victor Camarasa Cardiff have a player capable of finding the passes to unlock defences, while around him both Arter and Gunnarsson will be looking to get about the United midfield and let them know they are there.

Hoilett will pose a threat on the counter-attack and also scored at Vicarage Road at the weekend, while Murphy on the opposite flank has also been dangerous at times this season.

There is nothing much in that Cardiff side which will worry United, although the Red Devils have struggled in numerous games so far this season and there are far easier places to go to than the Cardiff City Stadium.

It is an intriguing first match for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer too, and many of the Cardiff supporters will have raised their eyebrows at the Norwegian being named as Jose Mourinho's temporary successor.

UPDATE: Allow me to just break away for one second to inform you that the whistles have gone in all of the 3pm kickoffs now, and the headline is that Crystal Palace have beaten Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium!

There is another shock elsewhere as Leicester topple Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, so United will be hoping that the trend of surprises does not extend into this evening kickoff.

Back to United, then, and it is a huge job to give a man whose only previous managerial experience has come at Molde and then today's opponents, whom he led to relegation before being sacked after only eight months at the helm in 2014.

One thing the appointment should achieve is to get the fans back onside as Solskjaer is a club legend having won 11 trophies in 11 years as a player, before taking charge of their reserve team too.

While there was some debate about whether Solskjaer is the right man, the general consensus was that United at least made the right decision in getting rid of Jose Mourinho earlier this week.

The writing had been on the wall for some time amid reports of bust-ups with players, disagreements with the board and, most importantly, a string of poor results on the pitch. Mourinho's style of football was also the cause of much frustration, and already it feels like some weight has been lifted off United's shoulders.

Jose Mourinho reacts to the Reds going back ahead during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester United on December 16, 2018© Reuters

United won 176 Premier League points under Mourinho - fewer than Man City, Tottenham Chelsea and Liverpool in the same time period - and this season performances have been particularly bad.

Last weekend's embarrassingly one-sided defeat to Liverpool left United sixth in the Premier League table and 19 points off the leaders - a gap that has since grown to 22 points courtesy of Liverpool's win last night.

While such a chasm to their bitter rivals will irk United, the main concern now will be the one separating them from the top four - although Chelsea's defeat to Leicester today ensures that remains 11 points and they could now get it back down to single figures with a win today.

Even so, to be sitting 11 points off the top four at this stage of the season - and only 14 clear of the relegation zone, incidentally - is a huge disappointment for the club.

United's current tally of 26 points is their worst after 17 games of a top-flight season since 1990, when they had an identical record but were a point worse off following a drawl during a match against Arsenal.

Just last season United were 12 points better off at this stage of the campaign, and United come into today's match with just one win from their last six top-flight outings.

There are so many humiliating statistics which can be thrown at United at the moment, and another one of those is their defensive record, which before the start of the day was the fifth-worst in the league, with only Fulham have kept fewer clean sheets.

United have shipped 29 goals already this term, which is more than 19th-placed Huddersfield after 17 games and also more than they conceded in the whole of last season. The last time they let in more in their opening 17 games of a top-flight campaign was in 1962-63.

United come into today's match without a win - and with three defeats - from their last four away games across all competitions, and they could lose three on the bounce today for the first time since December 2015.

Indeed, United have remarkably lost their last three Premier League away games against promoted teams - as many as in their previous 36 such matches prior to that - and could lose four in a row for the first time since 1961.

Cardiff will not mind all of the pre-match talk surrounding Manchester United, although it is unclear whether this is a good time to face a United side that may be in disarray, or whether they will enjoy an upturn in form following the change of manager.

Whatever the case, Cardiff will conjure up that underdog spirit and will look to continue their superb recent form here in front of their own fans.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock celebrates on November 30, 2018© Reuters

The Bluebirds have won four of their last five Premier League games here - which is as many as they had managed in their previous 22 - including an ongoing run of three in a row.

Not since January 1961 have Cardiff won four top-flight home games on the bounce - a run which began with a 3-0 triumph over Manchester United, incidentally - while they could also keep back-to-back clean sheets in top-flight home games for the first time since April 1957.

On the flip side, defeat to condemn them to successive losses for the first time since the beginning of November, which in itself is quite an achievement considering how few people expected Cardiff to put up this much of a fight.

The Bluebirds were the overwhelming favourites to be relegated, bottom of the table and a long way from safety, before the season began. However, now approaching the halfway stage of the campaign, they sit two points clear of the bottom three.

Cardiff fell to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Watford last weekend, when they threatened to come from 3-0 down, but over the last six games they have won three times - a vast improvement on just one win and nine defeats from their opening 12 games of the campaign.

Cardiff are now surprisingly the highest scorers in that mini-league of the bottom seven - or at least they were at the start of the day - but the concern comes at the other end, where only Fulham conceded more in the opening 17 games.

Teams that stay up against the odds usually have two things in abundance, though - a never-say-die attitude and a good home record.

I have already mentioned Cardiff's impressive home form, with 13 of their 14 points coming here in South Wales, but nine of those points have also been won from losing positions, so there is certainly fight in Warnock's side.

PREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at the Cardiff City Stadium, which means that it is time for a prediction!

This is such a hard one to call as United are something of an unknown quantity under Solskjaer at this stage. Cardiff's home record is hugely impressive, but I have a feeling United's players will play with the shackles off now that Mourinho has gone.

SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Cardiff 1-2 Man Utd

Cardiff have won just one of their last 12 meetings with Manchester United across all competitions, and you have to go all the way back to November 1960 - more than 58 years ago - to find that win.

The Bluebirds ran out 3-0 winners on that occasion, but United have gone on to win five of the subsequent seven meetings.

Manchester United are yet to win at the Cardiff City Stadium, though, although this will be just their second visit to the ground.

The first - and United's most recent away games against the Bluebirds - came in November 2013 when Cardiff scored a stoppage-time equaliser to pull off a famous 2-2 draw with United, who has scored through Rooney and Evra.

United got their revenge in the reverse fixture in January 2014, which is the most recent times that these two clubs have done battle.

Robin van Persie and Ashley Young scored on that occasion as United eased to a 2-0 win at Old Trafford.

Right, we're just about ready for kickoff now! A reminder of the team news before we do get underway...

CARDIFF STARTING XI: Etheridge; Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Cunningham; Gunnarsson, Arter, Camarasa; Hoilett, Paterson, Murphy

MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial

KICKOFF:  Here we go, then! The post-Mourinho era gets underway at the Cardiff City Stadium as the hosts kick us off!


GOAL!  How about that for a start to the new era! Rashford lines up a free kick and fires it right into the corner with a pinpoint drive!

The keeper may have to look at himself there as it was on his side, but he was nowhere near it.

That is exactly what United would have wanted, and exactly what they needed too. An early goal takes all of the pressure off them and, while there is still a long way to go, they can now afford to relax a little bit.

Chance for Cardiff to respond quickly here as Lingard concedes a free kick in a dangerous area...

SHOT!  Murphy goes for goal, but his strike flies a long way off target.

Here is that Rashford goal, which separates the two sides as things stand. A clean strike from Rashford, but the keeper has to do better surely?

...and here is how important he has been to them this season.

A painful clash of heads between Paterson and Shaw leaves both on the floor and requiring treatment. That looked like a painful one for both of them.

Shaw is up and seems OK, but Paterson needed further treatment before eventually recovering too. Both of them look like they will carry on, though.

Cardiff have done well to steady the ship after falling behind early on and they certainly have not let their heads drop here. They have settled into this game now.

It would be easy to read too much into the very early stages of the post-Mourinho era, but United do seem to be playing with more freedom so far than they were under the previous boss.

Crucial piece of defending from Cardiff as United hit them on the break. It looks for a moment as though Rashford might add a second from inside the box, but Cunningham makes a fine challenge in his own area.

Rashford skips past Gunnarsson but is unceremoniously shoved over, winning United a free kick in a good crossing position...

Young swings it in to a good area, but Bamba does well to nod it away with Pogba lurking.

United are seeing plenty of the ball at the moment and their movement off it is more pronounced than it has been in recent weeks. All in all, good signs so far for United.

No exactly a roll-call of successful United managers to compare himself to, but Solskjaer has at least got off to a better start...


GOAL!  United have their second of the afternoon, although this time they need a huge stroke of luck through a massive deflection off Cunningham.

The middle picks up the ball 25 yards from goal and tries his luck. It is a decent strike, but hits Cunningham and that is what takes it looping beyond the despairing dive of Etheridge and into the top corner.

Cardiff find themselves 2-0 down now without having allowed many chances at all in this match. Both goals have had a stroke of misfortune about them, while Warnock will consider them poor from a defensive standpoint.

Fine piece of defending from Morrison as a corner almost drops kindly for Martial inside the box, only for the Cardiff defender to get his foot in.

YELLOW CARD!  Shaw picks up the first yellow card of the night for a challenge on Murphy which was late and high. No malice, just mistimed.

PENALTY!  Cardiff have a penalty as Rashford is penalised for a handball inside his own box! He tried to chest it down and take it clear, but it struck his shoulder and the referee points to the spot!


GOAL!  Game on in South Wales as Camarasa puts his penalty into the top corner! No mistake from the Spaniard, leaving his compatriot De Gea with no chance at all.

That should raise the volume levels inside the Cardiff City Stadium!

SAVE!  United look for an immediate response as Lingard curls an effort towards goal, but it is easy for Etheridge to collect.


GOAL!  What a response from United, who restore their two-goal lead immediately with the type of goal which - dare I say - you would not have seen in the latter stages of Mourinho's reign.

It is a move full of one-touch confidence as Martial gives it to Pogba, who gives it to Lingard, who gives it back to Martial breaking into the box. From there he only has the keeper to beat, and he slides his finish past the keeper into the bottom corner.

Beautiful football from the visitors.

Manchester United winger Anthony Martial celebrates scoring against Cardiff City on December 22, 2018© Reuters

Arter swings a cross in from the left and it strikes the top of the crossbar on its way behind, but De Gea was watching it all the way.

Another quick one-touch passing move ends with the ball being played back to Pogba, but he swipes at his effort and slices it well off target.

There will be three minutes of added time at the end of this first half.


Well, that was a bit better from Manchester United! The visitors already look like a more confident and expressive outfit after 45 minutes under Solskjaer, and lead 3-1 at the halfway stage.

United have dominated the possession and have played some lovely football at times - the type of which we have not seen from them for a long time - and there is a long way back for Cardiff now.

It took only three minutes for the opening goal of Solskjaer's reign to arrive as Marcus Rashford got the new era off to a perfect start, although the keeper should have done better.

The United man went the goalkeeper's side, but Etheridge took a step the other way and then got nowhere near the ball. It was a good strike from Rashford, but Etheridge should have saved it.

Cardiff responded well to falling behind, but United added a second shortly before the half-hour mark through Ander Herrera.

Having been on the wrong end of a couple of deflections last weekend, this time they benefited from one as Herrera's 25-yard strike hit Cunningham and looped past Etheridge into the top corner.

Cardiff refused to lie own, though, and they pulled a goal back less than 10 minutes later when Victor Camarasa picked out the top corner with a fine penalty.

Rashford had given the spot kick away with a handball when leaning into the ball and trying to chest it down, and despite United's protests the officials had no doubt. United soon restored their two-goal advantage, though, with Martial capping off a lovely move with a smart finish.

HALF TIME:  United get us back underway at the start of the second half!

It will be interesting to see how United approach this second half now. Do they go for a statement win here? There are certainly more goals in this one for them if they really push for it.

The attack has been a lot more encouraging from United so far today, but question mark remains over the defence so Solskjaer will want to see better game management from his side in this second half.

Almost a chance for United again as another string of quick passes threatens to release Rashford through on goal, but Morrison makes an important challenge.

The difference in confidence levels from the United players today is remarkable. It is a damning indictment of whatever happened under Mourinho.

PENALTY!  Manchester United get a penalty this time as Bamba is adjudged to have tripped Lingard, who had dribbled skilfully into the box.


GOAL!  Game over now! Manchester United add their fourth from the penalty spot as Lingard - who won the penalty and then refused to give it up to Pogba - places it into the corner.

Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring against Cardiff City on December 22, 2018© Reuters

YELLOW CARD!  Gunnarsson goes into the book for a cynical hold on Lingard.

CARDIFF SUB: The first change of the game comes from Cardiff as Kenneth Zohore replaces Arter.

CHANCE!  It should be five for United as Lindelof strides out from defence and plays the ball through for Rashford, who fires his effort narrowly wide of the far post via a touch from the keeper.

CHANCE!  De Gea is called into action to deny Cardiff a second here, getting down really well to turn Murphy's curling low strike behind for a corner. Good chance for Cardiff, that.

United's biggest win this season so far is 4-1, and Solskjaer has a real chance to surpass that in his first game at the helm now.

CHANCE!  Cardiff win a free kick in a good position which Camarasa swings into the middle for Paterson, who beats Pogba to the ball. It is a good chance and he makes firm contact with his header, but he can't keep it down.

SAVE!  A goal from Pogba would really drive home the difference between United last week and this. He nearly gets it here with a curling effort from 25 yards, but Etheridge makes a really good save.

CHANCE!  The resulting corner is flicked on by Rashford for Jones, who shows good technique to get his shot away but is denied by Etheridge.

CARDIFF SUB: Change for Cardiff here as Kadeem Harris replaces Hoilett.

CHANCE!  Another decent chance for Cardiff as a free kick is drifted in deep to Bamba, who cannot squeeze his header in from a tight angle.

Less than 15 minutes remaining now and the challenge for United is getting that fifth goal - something they have not managed in the Premier League since the final game of Ferguson's reign.

CHANCE!  Cardiff have had chances to make this one more interesting. This time Zohore is released down the left flank, but the angle is against him and De Gea blocks his shot at the near post.

YELLOW CARD!  Cunningham goes into the book for a very cynical foul on Rashford, and he can have no complaints.

MAN UTD SUB: The visitors' first sub of the match sees Fred replace Rashford.

Less than 10 minutes remaining in this match now and it has been a pretty satisfactory first game at the helm for Solskjaer today. United have looked like a completely different proposition.

CARDIFF SUB: Another change from the home side as Joe Ralls replaces Gunnarsson.

Five minutes left now and, while most of the post-match reaction will focus on United's improvement, Cardiff also deserve a mention. This scoreline is a little harsh on them and they have created enough chances to have given United a tougher time, although they still don't deserve anything from the game.

MAN UTD SUB: Double change for United as Martial and Matic are replaced by Marouane Fellaini and Andreas Pereira.


GOAL!  The icing on the cake for Solskjaer and United as Pogba plays the ball through for Lingard, who takes the ball around the keeper before slotting into the empty net for his second of the evening.

There will be three minutes of added time at the end of this match.


Well, that could not have gone much better for Solskjaer! His first game in charge ends with United's biggest win of the season and their first five-goal haul in the Premier League since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson!

Rashford got the new era off to a perfect start with a goal after only three minutes, and further strikes from Herrera and Martial put United in control at the break - despite Camarasa pulling one back for Cardiff at one stage.

Jesse Lingard then made completely sure of the points with a second-half brace to leave United now eight points off the top four and no doubt feeling a lot better about themselves.

Right, that is all we have time for this evening!

Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for today's match as Manchester United get the post-Jose Mourinho era off to a perfect start with their best performance and biggest scoreline of the season. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.

From me, though, it is goodbye for now!

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A cheery Neil Warnock pictured on December 15, 2018
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