A brace from Marcus Rashford and a goal off the bench from Jadon Sancho saw Manchester United topple Leicester City with a 3-0 win, with Erik ten Hag’s men moving within three points of second place in the Premier League table.
Ten Hag opted to rotate his starting eleven somewhat with the fixtures coming thick and fast. The Dutchman brought in Victor Lindelof and Diogo Dalot in the defence, as well as the likes of Marcel Sabitzer- back in the side after being suspended in Europe in midweek- and Alejandro Garnacho further forward.
The final scoreline fails to flatter Leicester’s quality that they showed early on in the game; it could have been a different story on Sunday afternoon had it not been for two fine saves from David De Gea in the first half, with the Spanish stopper denying Harvey Barnes one-on-one before clawing out Kelechi Iheanacho’s header in a style reminiscent of Gordon Banks against Pele back in 1970 not long after.
Following his showing, De Gea, equalled Peter Schmeichel’s record amount of clean sheets for the club with 180.
It was United who took the lead against the run of play in the 25th minute when Wout Faes stepped up in an attempt to rectify his bad pass, allowing Rashford to run in behind on the right before tucking the ball beyond the goalkeeper to keep his fine form going.
The home side started the second half much more assertive and on the front foot, and deservedly doubled the lead through Rashford again. The Englishman was slipped in by Fred on the left, onside by just millimeters, before slotting the ball through the legs of Danny Ward to put his team in cruise control in the 56th minute.
Rashford, having just scored the 24th goal of his best scoring season of his career, also had a part to play in the third goal just five minutes later. The forward gave it to Sancho in the middle before the latter played a one-two with Bruno Fernandes on the right wing, completing the move with a finish from the centre of the box to seal the points after coming on at half-time as part of the manager’s tactical switch.
The game went by rather quickly after the third goal, with not many chances created across either of the two sides. It never quite fell for Wout Weghorst who missed some decent chances to score.
Scott McTominay came on for The Reds to make a welcome return from injury, and 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo came on for ten minutes to make his Premier League debut.
It was a shaky first half at times, but United got the job done in a professional manner to take all three points against Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Final Score: Manchester United 3-0 Leicester City (Rashford 25’ 56’, Sancho 61’)
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
Whilst De Gea, Lindelof and Fernandes were all superb in the eyes of many supporters, it is difficult to look past Rashford given his goalscoring contributions.
He has smashed his best scoring season record already, and is proving the difference in almost every game he plays.
It was not scintillating across the ninety minutes, but the academy lad scored two goals and won the game of football. Fans cannot ask for much more than that.
He frightens defenders and forces them backwards, thus helping the rest of his teammates as an attacking unit. The 25-year-old is a force to be reckoned with right now.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
Having played a tough game away on the continent just three days earlier, the result against Leicester can only be seen as perfect. With three goals scored, players rotated and a clean sheet, Sunday proved a really good day for United.
The result puts The Red Devils just three points behind Manchester City in second with the same amount of games played. Technically, United are in the title race, but it probably would be better to just take each game at a time rather than think too far ahead.
Ten Hag and the players can win a trophy next weekend; that will be one competition done, hopefully won, but certainly out of the way. Getting the League Cup out of the picture will help the team focus on the other competitions. Before that, the team have to outscore Barcelona in front of 75,000 fans this Thursday. Casemiro will play in both the big games, too. It has to be said, the next week could be one of the best weeks of the season if all goes to plan.
McTominay will be welcomed back with open arms given the lack of depth in the midfield. Sancho at attacking midfield with Fernandes on the right seems to be something that the manager likes, but maybe his Weghorst experiment as the attacking midfielder is one to steer clear of. Garnacho should not feel too hard done by after coming off at the interval, as it was clearly tactical rather than personal.
Onwards and upwards, hopefully!
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Barcelona in the second leg of the Europa League play-off clash. That kicks off at 20:00 (BST) on Thursday 23rd February.
After that, it is the Carabao Cup Final against Newcastle United on Sunday 26th February, kick-off being at 16:30 (BST).