Anthony Martial scored his first career hat-trick as Manchester United put Sheffield United to the sword at Old Trafford to boost their pursuit of a top-four finish.
Martial scored a first-half brace and added a goal in the second half to become the first United player to score a Premier League hat trick in seven years.
The victory moves the Reds to within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who have a game in hand against Manchester City, while the Blades remain eighth.
United’s last hat trick had come in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season in 2013 when Robin Van Persie netted thrice against Aston Villa to confirm United as champions.
In their first game back at Old Trafford since the restart, United were everything fans have pined for and it was a pity no fans were on hand to witness their brand of attacking fast-paced football.
The hosts started on the front foot and it took just seven minutes for the opener when Martial lunged at a Marcus Rashford cutback to score past stand-in Sheffield United goalkeeper Simon Moore, who had replaced the ineligible Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson.
The Frenchman then attempted to return the favour minutes later but Rashford scuffed his shot wide when scoring would have been easier. Minutes later, the Englishman missed a sitter following a delightful sequence of passes that ended with him air kicking a Paul Pogba lofted pass with just Moore to beat.
Martial ensured United didn’t rue Rashford’s misses when showed his new-found predatory instincts to meet Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s low cross for his brace three minutes before half-time to send the hosts 2-0 up at the break.
It was all United in the second-half with the hosts struggling to make it past the halfway line and it was only a matter of time before the hosts scored a third.
And what a beauty it was as Martial dinked the ball over Moore for his hat trick following a delightful one-two with Rashford.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made set a record for the number of substitutes when he made five changes in one fell swoop with Odion Ighalo among the entrants but the job had already been done and United cantered to victory.
The defeat would worry Chris Wilder as his previously highflying Blades have now conceded three goals in back-to-back defeats to Newcastle and now Manchester United.
Elsewhere, a Raul Jimenez goal in the second-half – his 15th in the league this season – crushed Bournemouth’s resistance as sixth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers won 1-0 at the Molineux to move level on points with Manchester United.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth are on a terrible run and appear to be sleepwalking towards relegation as they stay 18th.
Alex Iwobi started his second game on the bounce since the restart as Everton nicked a 1-0 win at bottom club Norwich who have now lost three on the bounce.
Michael Keane put away Lucas Digne’s corner to send the Toffees up to 10th on the log and clear the path for a late play for Europe.
Ahmed El-Mohamady’s 83rd-minute equaliser for Aston Villa could prove a huge point in their battle for safety as they held Newcastle United to a 1-1 draw at Saint James’ Park.
Dwight Gayle had put the hosts ahead in the 68th-minute before El-Mohamady struck to ensure both a share of the spoils for both sides.
Newcastle stay in 13th-place while Villa move level with 18th-placed Bournemouth and 17th-placed Westham United.
In the day’s late kickoff, Liverpool thrashed a listless Crystal Palace at Anfield to move within touching distance of their first title in 30 years.
An exquisitely struck Trent Alexander Arnold’s freekick sent the Reds on their way after 22 minutes, Mohamed Salah added a second from Fabinho’s lofty pass just before half-time to practically settle the game.
The Brazilian made it 3-0 with a bullet shot from range in the 54th-minute and Saido Mane made it six in a row against Palace with the fourth in the 69th-minute.
The win for Jurgen Klopp’s men means Manchester City must now win at Chelsea on Thursday to further delay the inevitability of Liverpool’s coronation as Premier League champions.