MAN UNITED 3, LEICESTER CITY 0
Marcus Rashford’s personal goals are lifting Manchester United to new heights as they continue to chase silverware on four fronts.
The England striker’s double in the home victory against Leicester City took his season’s total to 24, his best-ever season for the Reds.
Rashford has also netted 16 times in 17 matches since the World Cup, a feat not surpassed by any player in Europe’s top five leagues.
Jadon Sancho was also on target as the Reds strengthened their hold on third place, moving eight points clear of Newcastle who are fourth and only three shy of second-placed Manchester City.
While it was an emphatic victory, it was not the case on the early stages when they laboured and were indebted to David De Gea for keeping them in the game.
It was also a momentous day for the Spaniard who kept a 180th clean sheet for the Reds to match Peter Schmeichel’s club record.Embed from Getty Images
Rashford said: “Overall it was a good day. They created good opportunities and David made a great save at the end of the first half, without that we can’t go on to win the game.
“It’s still early in the season, we’re fighting for a lot of different things, and we have another big game in the week to hopefully go through to the next round of the Europa League and then a massive game for us [against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final].
“We’re close but both teams in front of us are good teams and playing good football. We have to just focus on ourselves, do as well as we can and keep picking up points.”
Manager Erik ten Hag was critical of his side’s first-half display, explaining: “Leicester is a great team, they played really well and made it really tough for us.
“We didn’t follow the rules and the principles of the game from our way of play and then you get punished. We were lucky and it is only because of David de Gea that we don’t concede a goal. Great saves, we were not disciplined, and it was not right.
“We came in at half time and said it. We were 1-0 up, we knew also how to beat them because there was a lot of space in the midfield and behind their defending line. It was a good goal, once again a great pass from Bruno [Fernandes], great goal from Rashy [Marcus Rashford] and then we are 1-0 up.
“The second half was all us and Bruno Fernandes played a magnificent game. The team is putting Rashford in the right positions, especially Bruno, he creates how many passes, he gives behind, he crosses in. Not only Bruno but I think he is doing a great job.
“We need all players in form but we have to follow the principles of our way of play and if we do that, we can play very well and we have seen that in the second half.”
And of the title race, ten Hag added: “We don’t think about that, we think about tomorrow, we have to be a better version of ourselves and that is what we have to work for. We are in February, don’t look far ahead.”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers reflected: “We started the game really well, looked a real threat in the game, progressed the ball through well into the final third. We had chances, we didn’t take them which is a continuation of the last few weeks. They had one chance and scored and that’s just the difference in being clinical.
“We had enough in the first half, disappointed in the goal we conceded, Marcus Rashford. We’ve got control of the game, but we give the ball away from a simple position and then they get round the back and he scores.
“We weren’t as creative in the second half, we didn’t get hold of the ball, didn’t pass it well enough and then once they get the second gaol, it gives a bit more comfort to them in the game.
“The chances were there but we just couldn’t quite put them away. Sometimes that’s the way it goes for you. We have shown that we have got our goal scoring and creativity back from the last two games. Today it just wasn’t to be, but we created chances and if we could have taken one or two of those in the first half, it would have been a different game.
“In the second half we disappointed, we gave away the second goal in particular, it was a soft one. For the third one, we’ve got to keep the ball better. We just need to play simple and instead we forced the pass, and it breaks down so that was frustrating.
“We’ve taken six points from nine in what were three tough games. Now we go back home again, and we’ve got a tough game against Arsenal, but the supporters will be right up for it. We’ll be getting ready for that, but it should be another great day hopefully for us.”
United made five changes to the side that drew 2-2 at Barcelona on Thursday.
Lisandro Martinez and Marcel Sabitzer returned from suspension in midweek while Victor Lindelof was handed a rare start. Diogo Dalot and Alejandro Garnacho were also in from the start.
Casemiro served the last of his domestic ban while Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Tyrell Malacia and Sancho also dropped out.
Leicester were unchanged from their impressive 4-1 victory over Tottenham last Saturday.
The in-form James Maddison was fit to start and captained the side.
United made a bright start, but Leicester almost grabbed an eighth minute lead after slicing through the home defence.
Harvey Barnes played a return pass with Kelechi Iheanacho and was clean through only for David De Gea to make a brilliant save.
Harry Souttar then headed narrowly over from the resulting corner as the Foxes enjoyed a productive spell.
De Gea pulled off a second super stop to claw out Iheanacho’s header as the visitors were firmly n control.
How Leicester were punished for failing to take those chances as United snatched a 25th minute lead through Rashford.
The in-form striker was sent clean through by Bruno Fernandes’ long pass and he fired low past keeper Danny Ward for his 23rd goal of the season.
United ought to have doubled their lead, but Dalot missed a sitter after running on to a return pass from Fernandes but slicing his effort wide from within the six-yard box.
Ten Hag made a switch at half time as Alejandro Garnacho, exposed for his lack of defensive cover, was replaced by Jadon Sancho.
The Reds almost doubled their advantage when Lisandro Martinez headed against the bar from Luke Shaw’s free kick.
United made it 2-0 shortly before the hour as Rashford struck again with goal 24 of his campaign following a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside.
Martinez and Fred linked well with the latter sending Rashford clean through to score with a low shot, though there was a hint of offside.
It was Rashford’s 24th of the campaign and 15th in 17 games since the World Cup, more than any other player has netted in any of Europe’s big five leagues.
Ten Hag made a second switch as Fred was replaced by the fit-again Scott McTominay.
And that was soon followed by a third goal as Sancho scored his fifth goal of the campaign.
Iheanacho was dispossessed and Rashford broke while Sancho then played a return pass with Fernandes before sweeping home a shot from 10 yards.
Ten Hag’s thoughts were clearly on Thursday’s Europa League game against Barcelona as Rashford and Shaw were substituted with 20 minutes left, replaced by Anthony Elanga and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
United made their last change with 10 minutes left, Kobbie Mainoo replacing Marcel Sabitzer.
They would have added a fourth goal lar on when Wout Weghorst was denied by a big block by Ward as they comfortably saw out the game.