Manchester United scored five goals in a Premier League game for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement this evening as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's interim reign got off to a perfect start with victory over Cardiff City in South Wales.
Eyebrows were raised when Solskjaer was appointed as boss until the end of the season, but a mixture of the Norwegian's arrival and Jose Mourinho's exit seemed to take the shackles off United as they produced their best performance and biggest win of the season.
The former Cardiff boss could not have made a better start against his old club when Marcus Rashford gave United the lead after only three minutes, and further goals from Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial either side of a Victor Camarasa penalty left the visitors in control at the break.
Jesse Lingard then added a second-half brace - including a penalty of his own - as the Red Devils flourished in their first game of the post-Mourinho era to move within eight points of the Champions League places.
United looked a more confident and expressive team from the very first whistle and it took only three minutes for Solskjaer's interim spell to get going as Rashford - playing in a central role instead of the absent Romelu Lukaku - opened the scoring.
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge may feel that he should have done better with the free kick, which nestled into the corner on his side, but Rashford struck it well and the Cardiff shot-stopper was nowhere near it.
The home side did respond well to falling behind as they quickly settled into the game, but United looked a lot more threatening than they did for much of Mourinho's time in charge this season and they doubled their advantage shortly before the half-hour mark - albeit with the help of a sizeable stroke of luck.
Paul Pogba - recalled to the side after being left as an unused sub in Mourinho's final match against Liverpool last weekend - picked out Herrera, whose 25-yard strike took a big deflection off Greg Cunningham to send it looping into the top corner.
It already looked like a long way back for the hosts at that stage, but they halved the deficit less than 10 minutes later when Rashford was penalised for a handball inside the area while trying to chest it down.
Camarasa stepped up to take the spot kick and left compatriot David de Gea no chance by firing his effort into the top corner, restoring Cardiff's hope towards the closing stages of the half.
The one-goal deficit lasted only three minutes, though, with United quickly adding a third with a flowing piece of football that had been sorely lacking under Mourinho for so long.
A string of one-touch passes between Martial, Pogba and Lingard released Martial into the box, and he kept his cool to put the finishing touch to a delightful team goal which encapsulated the difference in confidence since Mourinho's exit.
United's biggest win of the season before today was their 4-1 triumph over Fulham, and they equalled that scoreline 10 minutes into the second half when Sol Bamba was adjudged to have bundled over Lingard in the area. Lingard took the penalty himself - refusing to give up the duties to Pogba - and made no mistake from 12 yards.
The visitors quickly went in search of a fifth and almost provided it shortly after the hour mark when Victor Lindelof became the latest to typify the increased freedom among the United players by striding out of defence and playing the ball through for Rashford, who put his finish narrowly wide of the far post.
Cardiff refused to lie down and they did create chances which may have enabled them to claw their way back into the match, with Josh Murphy and Kenneth Zohore both drawing saves from De Gea, while Callum Paterson and Sol Bamba failed to make the most of headed chances inside the area.
A more clinical opponent may have made things less comfortable for Solskjaer's side, but the most pleasing thing from a United perspective was the renewed sense of freedom with which they were attacking, and the difference in the space of a week was nearly drilled home when Pogba saw his long-range curling effort tipped over the bar by Etheridge.
The Cardiff keeper also denied Phil Jones from the resulting corner, but there was nothing he could do about United's fifth in the final minute of normal time as Lingard doubled his personal tally to put the icing on the cake for Solskjaer.
Once again Pogba was the creator with a through-ball which sent Lingard behind the defence, and from there he rounded the keeper before sliding the ball into an empty net - the first time United have scored five in a league game since the final match of Ferguson's reign.
United will next host Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford on Boxing Day as Solskjaer takes charge of his first home match, while Cardiff - who have lost back-to-back matches for the first time since early November - face Crystal Palace.
CARDIFF (4-5-1): Etheridge; Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Cunningham; Hoilett (Harris 74'), Gunnarsson (Ralls 83'), Arter (Zohore 61'), Camarasa, Murphy; Paterson
MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic (Fellaini 87'), Pogba; Lingard, Rashford (Fred 79'), Martial (Pereira 87')
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