McAtee fired us into a seventh minute lead only for United to level before the break.
But a brilliant second half brace from the midfielder proved decisive. Though United struck again to threaten a grandstand finish, Tai Sodje struck to seal victory and maintain our unbeaten start to the season
There was an early scare for City as from a short-worked corner United’s Charlie Savage angled a curling drive just wide of the far post.
But on a glorious afternoon at Leigh Sports Village City made a slick, impressive start and we were rewarded with a deserved early breakthrough on six minutes.
Having dispossessed United on the edge of the hosts’ box, a pinpoint through ball from Oscar Bobb found the onrushing McAtee, who finished with aplomb.
In what was action-packed start Joseph Olowu’s header was just too high for United before McAtee pinged a deflected shot agonisingly wide.
It needed a last-ditch Bjorn Hardley tackle to deny Sam Edozie after another sweeping City attack, whilst McAtee also warmed United keeper Matej Kovar’s hands with a close-range shot.
However, the hosts remained a threat, especially from set pieces and Olowu headed just the wrong side of the post from an in-swinging corner after evading the City defence.
United forced a leveller on the stroke of half-time as full-back Alvaro Hernandez found space after driving into the box before beating Cieran Slicker with a venomous shot.
Slicker was called into action 10 minutes after the restart, producing a fine save to deny Martin Sviderksy’s low drive before a United cross then ricocheted off the top of the bar.
City though responded in tremendous fashion on the hour thanks to that man McAtee.
Picked out on the edge of the box by Sammy Robinson's superb ball, the midfielder cut inside and smacked home a tremendous 15-yard effort to fire us back ahead.
United almost drew level again from another set piece as Olowu’s header hit the bar, but McAtee was in inspired form and found space on 77 minutes to fire home and complete his hat-trick.
The Reds hit back almost immediately through substitute Dillon Hoogewerf but City deservedly had the final say with sub Tai Sodje rounding off a superb win with a crisp finish.
How we lined up
Slicker was in goal with Robinson, skipper CJ Egan-Riley and Luke Mbete in defence.
Romeo Lavia was the holding midfielder with Josh Wilson-Esbrand also in the engine room along with McAtee and Juan Larios.
The attacking trident was made up of Edozie, Micah Hamilton and Bobb.
XI: Slicker, Robinson, Egan-Riley (c), Mbete, Wilson-Esbrand, Lavia, McAtee, Edozie, Hamilton, Bobb, Larios
SUBS: Van Sas, Burns, Charles, Oduroh, Sodje
What it means
City maintain our unbeaten start to the season and now have seven points from three games with Brian Barry-Murphy's men going from strength to strength.
With a short international break now taking place, City are next in action in a fortnight on Saturday 11 September when we play host to Chelsea in a PL2 encounter at the Academy Stadium.
Kick-off is set for 3pm.
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