Welcome back Kenneth Zohore. The Great Dane was the one shining light for Bluebirds on a night when Manchester United dominated.
Zohore looked a class act at times in the Championship last season, but has gone missing this season.
There was, though, a new edge to the big man when he went on just after the hour mark. There was a hunger, desire, commitment and spirit to Zohore’s game, while he made good runs and physically challenged defenders.
Manager Neil Warnock described the home defeat as ‘embarrassing’, but he had words of praise for the Bluebirds striker, saying: “Kenneth has been really good over the last three weeks, setting standards like he did last season.
“He looked sharp, has an appetite to succeed and all credit to him.”
The visitors won comfortably in front of a sell-out 33,000-plus attendance thanks to goals from Jesse Lingard (2), Rashford, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial, giving new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a five-star welcome back at United.
Owner Vincent Tan flew in to watch the game and before kick-off went on a stroll around the pitch, handing out gifts to young supporters.
There was a terrific atmosphere in the build-up to kick-off, but this was a day when United could not be contained.
City now face back-to-back away fixtures at Crystal Palace and Leicester, while Solskjaer’s men are at home against Huddersfield on Boxing Day and then Bournemouth.
Warnock’s warrior are still outside the relegation places with Fulham, Huddersfield and Burnley below them and the manager said: “If you’d told me at the start of the season that we would be outside the bottom three at Christmas, I would have snapped your hand off.
“We have to take the positives.”
“There are two tough away games to come for us, at Palace and Leicester.
“We must do everything we can to earn away points. I’m looking forward to two good game, and I know our fans will back us until the end.”
Warnock admitted Rashford’s opening goal, scored after only three minutes, was a major blow.
“Conceding at that stage was tough,” he said.
“That knocked us down and before we knew it we were two down. We came back well, but if we concede goals like we did then we won’t win games.
“I wasn’t disappointed by the effort shown today, we were playing against a top side with a new manager.
“On the plus side the crowd were up for it and at 2-1, even at 3-1, I thought we had a chance, if we could have scored the first goal after half-time it might have changed things.”
Solskjaer was beaming in the away dug-out at Cardiff City Stadium. His team played with an enthusiasm which had away fans celebrating wildly.
“Our reaction after Cardiff’s goal from a penalty was brilliant,” said Solskjaer, who looks relaxed and confident.
His family flew into the UK from Norway on Sunday, although he admitted that plans for them to spend Christmas with his parents have had to be abandoned.
“Winning against Cardiff is a great start,” said Solskjaer. “There are things to work on, but the players grasped many of our ideas quickly.
“I enjoyed my first few days since taking over and I’m determined to give it everything over the next four or five months.”
This was the first time United have scored five goals in a Premier League game since manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge – a 5-5 draw against West Brom in May 2013.
Paul Pogba played with quality and a freedom which made him a joy to watch and there was an attacking fluency to a United team who looked as though they were enjoying themselves again.
Solskjaer, it seems, has had a major effect on everybody at Old Trafford fun the short time since he returned to the club.
Manchester United: De Gea, Young, Jones, Lindelöf, Shaw, Herrera, Matic (Fellaini 87), Pogba, Lingard, Rashford (Fred 79), Martial (Pereira 87). Subs not used: Bailly, Mata, Dalot, Romero.
Referee: Michael Oliver