Bukayo Saka scored a jaw-dropping first career hat-trick as rampant England roared to a 7-0 victory against North Macedonia in Monday’s memorable Euro 2024 qualifier.
Gareth Southgate’s side are all but assured of making it to Germany having reached the halfway point of qualification with four wins from their four Group C games.
Harry Kane struck twice in an Old Trafford annihilation that also saw Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips get in on the act, but ever-improving talent Saka was the star of the show with his tremendous treble.
The 21-year-old is at the heart of a catchy new chant about England going to Berlin and showed just why he is considered one of the world’s best young talents.
Saka slammed home from a tight angle after Kane’s opener – the sixth straight game he has scored in – and before Rashford’s goal at his home ground.
The young forward left the 70,708 in attendance stunned immediately after the break when scoring a sensational left-footed strike from a similarly impressive pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Saka soon completed the first hat-trick of his senior career with a cool finish that was complemented by substitute Phillips’ tap-in and a Kane spot-kick.
This, quite surprisingly, was the second-most experienced England starting line-up ever, with the combined 590 caps only beaten by 595 against Algeria in 2010.
Southgate stuck with a strong core and, like against Malta on Friday, experimented with Alexander-Arnold in midfield on a balmy night in Manchester, where Saka had an effort within 90 seconds.
It was a warning of what was to come on a night to cherish for the 21-year-old, but nobody will remember the cagey opening stages on Monday.
Rashford saw two cross-shots denied as Macedonia temporarily played a man light as bloodied skipper Stefan Ristovski was patched up after a clash of heads with Kane.
Nothing was quite clicking, only for England to go up a gear and open the proverbial floodgates in the 29th minute.
A move that started from defence continued with Jordan Henderson firing a diagonal ball out to Rashford on the left.
The forward held up the ball before putting through under-lapping Luke Shaw, who cut back for Kane to slam home from the edge of the six-yard box.
England’s second followed nine minutes later.
Saka held the ball under pressure before peeling into space and collecting Kyle Walker’s firm cross. The confident star unleashed a thumping right-footed drive that flew in at the near post from a tight angle.
Under the cosh Macedonia soon had goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski to thank for stopping Rashford from converting Harry Maguire’s smart pass.
But the Old Trafford favourite would not be denied for long.
Kane intelligently intercepted a back pass by Ristovski and slipped in Henderson, who played in Rashford to turn into an empty net when Dimitrievski flinched.
England did not make any changes at half-time despite the game already being won, paving the way for an incredible fourth in the 47th minute.
Alexander-Arnold put Saka behind by sweeping a superb first-time ball forwards and the Arsenal talent provided a fitting finish.
The 21-year-old turned the ball towards goal with his first touch, slowed it with his chest and then lasered home a left-footed strike on the bounce.
It was a stupendous strike followed by Saka completing his hat-trick in the 51st minute.
Kane showed great awareness to put Saka behind with a low driven pass and the forward kept his cool to slot past Dimitrievski.
The Arsenal flyer soon left to a standing ovation and a big hug from Southgate, who brought him off among a quartet of changes just before the hour mark.
Jack Grealish received a particularly loud cheer as he made his return to action after celebrating Manchester City’s treble triumph.
Club team-mate Phillips was also introduced and turned home his first international goal in the 64th minute.
Nikola Serafimov stopped Kane from meeting a Grealish cross, but only managed to send the ball to the unmarked midfielder at the far post.
Southgate decided it was time to take off Kane, and Callum Wilson was ready on the touchline, but the substitution was put on hold.
Half-time introduction Egzon Bejtulai wrestled John Stones to the ground and England’s skipper struck home the resulting penalty before being replaced with a grin.
England pushed for more but Macedonia were able to prevent Southgate’s flying side doing any further damage.