Manchester United brushed Brighton aside with a vibrant all-round display as their pursuit of a Champions League place gathered further momentum.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side totally dominated the contest at the Amex Stadium and extended their unbeaten run to 15 games to move up to fifth in the Premier League, two points adrift of Chelsea.
Teenager Mason Greenwood bamboozled Seagulls defender Lewis Dunk with quick footwork and drilled in an accurate opener for the visitors.
United were ruthless in the final third as midfield playmaker Bruno Fernandes, who was highly impressive once again, netted via a deflection, then volleyed in to finish a swift counter-attack.
Brighton did pose some threat in the second half but David de Gea made a flying save to deny Aaron Connolly as Graham Potter’s side remain in 15th place, six points above the relegation zone.
United will have looked enviously at rivals Liverpool and the job Jurgen Klopp has done as they ended their 30-year wait for a top-flight title by winning the Premier League for the first time – their previous titles coming back in the old First Division days.
It has already been seven years since United won the last of their 20 league titles but the long rebuild job has started to show signs of taking shape under club legend Solskjaer.
The Red Devils struggled with slow and structured football under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, but showcased a free-flowing brand of football on the south coast on Tuesday.
United pressed with poise, attacked with pace and finished with precision – they have now scored 38 goals during their 15-game unbeaten run and conceded just four goals.
Teenager Greenwood took his tally to 13 for the campaign with a crisp finish at the near post but it is the January signing of Fernandes that seems to have rejuvenated the side, with the former Sporting Lisbon player having contributing five goals and three assists since his arrival.
Fernandes’ second goal – his side’s third – was a throwback to United teams of old, the Portuguese smashing in Greenwood’s chipped cross to complete a devastating counter-attack. And he could have had a hat-trick, but struck the foot of the post.
Alongside Fernandes, French World Cup winner Paul Pogba eased back into action following a long injury lay-off and caressed the ball around the pitch, while Nemanja Matic expertly patrolled the centre of the park.
United were outstanding going forward but their performance at the back will be pleasing too, staying largely untroubled and keeping the eighth clean sheet from their past 13 top-flight games.
The Old Trafford side won only one of their last seven games last season to finish sixth but can be confident in the run-in this term with games against strugglers Bournemouth, Aston Villa and West Ham coming up, and a chance to collect silverware in the FA Cup and Europa League too.
United sit fifth but it could be enough to gain entry into the Champions League next season as rivals Manchester City await the fate of their appeal for a two-year ban from the competition.