Manchester United boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Europa League knockout stages with a convincing 4-1 victory over Turkish side Fenerbahce at Old Trafford.
The Reds took a while to get going before penalties from Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial – and another stunning effort from Pogba – gave the hosts a firm first-half cushion.
The impressive Jesse Lingard added further gloss shortly after the break and, although Robin van Persie scored on his anticipated Old Trafford return, Jose Mourinho’s men earned a second win in Group A to sit second at the halfway point, ahead of facing the Turks again in a fortnight’s time at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.
Mourinho kept his promise to name a strong team in the middle of a busy week, despite making seven changes from Monday’s goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield. Captain Wayne Rooney returned to the starting line-up against the side he scored a memorable hat-trick against on his United debut in 2004 and Luke Shaw came in for his first appearance in a month.
Meanwhile, United fans gave former striker van Persie a warm welcome back on his first appearance at the Theatre of Dreams since his successful three-year spell with the Reds came to an end last year.
United made an assertive start with plenty of early possession as the visitors sat back in numbers in the opening exchanges. The first notable effort at goal took 15 minutes to arrive but Pogba found ex-Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel in his way before Martial was inches away from converting Juan Mata’s delightful cross at the back post.
But after a slow start in which chances were at a premium, United seized control with two quick-fire spotkicks just after the half-hour mark. Mata brought down Michael Carrick’s pinpoint pass and was impeded by Simon Kjaer, allowing Pogba to send Fenerbache keeper Volkan Demirel the wrong way.
Less than three minutes later, French referee Benoit Bastien pointed to the spot again after Martial was bundled over by Sener Ozbayrakli and took over the responsibility to bury the spot-kick into the same left-hand corner.
Fenerbahce almost responded immediately when Souza checked inside of Eric Bailly inside the box but his low shot was kept out by an alert David De Gea.
United wrapped up a fine first half in style when Rooney’s cross found Jesse Lingard, who laid the ball off for Pogba to guide a sublime 20-yard shot into the top corner for his second of the game.