Manchester United 3-0 Leicester City: Marcus Rashford nabs goals in both halves to close the gap on second place in the Premier League, with substitute Jadon Sancho also getting on the scoresheet for Erik ten Hag’s men
- Marcus Rashford fired the opening goal for Manchester United against the run of play in the first-half
- His second goal 15 minutes into the second half was only confirmed following a VAR check
- Jadon Sancho came off the bench for United’s third to create a three goal cushion after an hour’s play
As far as Marcus Rashford is concerned you can take your pick from the statistics available. Twenty four goals for the season, a personal high. Sixteen in seventeen games since the World Cup ended in December. Or seven consecutive goalscoring Premier League appearances at Old Trafford, the first Manchester United player to do that since Wayne Rooney in 2010.
Whichever way you choose to look at it, Rashford’s run of scoring form is remarkable. The 25-year-old looks and no doubt feels like a man who cannot miss at the moment. Had Leicester possessed such a player here they may have turned an opening 20-minute spell of dominance in to something more tangible then footballing merit marks.
But at United now there is a wider perspective to take. This is not a season to be viewed through the prism of the performances of just one man. No, Erik Ten Hag and his players need to ask themselves if they have a realistic shot at winning the Premier League.
There will be some who will not have it, who say that a five-point gap between United and leaders Arsenal – who have played a game less – is too many. But, after their win at Arsenal last Wednesday Manchester City themselves were considered favourites for the title. After this weekend’s games, United are only three points behind City so surely they, too, are in this race? If City are then surely United are too?
Ten Hag will doubtless not wish to dwell on it. This has been a viewed as a season of progression since it began with those two horrific defeats to Brighton and Brentford last summer and it will probably suit the Dutchman for it continue to be seen that way. It keeps the pressure and the expectation at more manageable levels.
Marcus Rashford scored in both halves of the Premier League win against Leicester City to keep the pressure on their rivals
Jadon Sancho got on the scoresheet just after the hour mark to give Man United a three goal cushion in the contest
But the truth is that United now have the look of a team capable of running hot and with someone like Rashford playing the kind of football he never has before then Ten Hag will know what we all know, namely that something quite remarkable is not entirely out of the question.
MANCHESTER UNITED: (4-2-3-1) De Gea 8; Dalot 6, Lindelof 6, Martinez 7, Shaw 7.5 (Wan Bissaka 68mins 6); Sabitzer 7 (Mainoo 79mins 6), Fred 6.5 (McTominay 57mins 6); Fernandes 7.5, Wehgorst 7, Garnacho 6 (Sancho 45mins 7); Rashford 8.5 (Elanga 68mins 6)
GOALS: Rashford 25, 56 Sancho 61
MANAGER: ERIK TEN HAG: 7
LEICESTER CITY: (4-4-1-1) Ward 5.5; Castagne 6, Soutter 6.5, Faes 6, Kristiansen 6.5; Tete 6 (Praet 74mins 6), Dewsbury-Hall 6.5 (Tielemans 58mins 6), Mendy 6 (Soumare 58mins 6), Barnes 7; Maddison 6.5; Iheanacho 6 (Vardy 75mins 6)
BOOKED: Faes, Mendy
MANAGER: BRENDAN RODGERS: 6
REFEREE: Stuart Attwell 6
The beauty of this United team is that they don’t have to always play well to win and that makes them dangerous outliers indeed. Here, they were made to look ordinary by Brendan Rodgers’ team for the first quarter. Leicester cut through the United defence a number of times and had it not been for two David de Gea saves – one exceptional and one merely very good – then the team from the midlands would have lead by at least one.
But United’s recovery from those difficult early moments was steady and once Rashford strode through to score from virtually his team’s first attack in the 25th minute this was never a result that looked in any doubt.
There is a sureness about Rashford’s finishing at the moment that other centre forwards will recognise as the hallmarks of a footballer who feels as though he is always going to score, eventually. These periods come and go but when they do come around they are something to behold.
Rashford scored again during a period at the start of the second half that they dominated. Once again it was a one on one chance. Then, soon after, substitute Jadon Sancho scored one too. From that point on, it felt as though the final tally could be as many as United wished.
For Leicester and Rodgers it was a strange afternoon. So impressive and dangerous for a while and then, subsequently, so tame and vulnerable. In some ways, it sums up their season.
De Gea frustrated Leicester early on and his first save of note arrived in just the ninth minute and illustrated the Spaniard’s enduring worth to United. Leicester were the dominant force for the first 20 minutes or so, breaking from midfield and creating numerical overloads. Harvey Barnes was the player denied in this instance when, after playing a one-two with Kelechi Iheanacho, he burst through the middle and was denied by De Gea’s right hand as he show low from in the region of the penalty spot.
Leicester defender Harry Soutter – impressive since his signing from Stoke City – headed the resulting corner over the bar and for a while United struggled to contain their energetic opponents.
United looked particularly vulnerable down their right side and Leicester were keen to exploit this. One a number of occasions Leicester right-back Timothy Castagne advanced in to this area to good effect.
Not every decision made by Leicester players in attacking areas were the right ones, though, and this cost them on a couple of occasions. Iheanacho, for example, should have played the ball across goal after James Maddison released him to space but instead shot weakly from a tough angle. Then the dangerous Brazilian Tete waited too long to cross before Castagne did get one right and De Gea was required to paw Iheanacho’s header off the goal line as he scrambled across his line to the far post.
Midway through the half and United were treading water a little. They couldn’t get enough possession to build anything while Leicester were able to manoeuvre the ball round and through them much too easily.
The thing about this United team, though, is that they are clinical in a way that has proved beyond previous versions going all the way back to Sir Ferguson’s latter years. It helps when you have a forward playing with as much confidence as Rashford is. Here, when the otherwise excellent Wout Faews misplaced a pass from his own 18-yard-box Leicester were immediately in trouble. Marcel Sabitzer read the play well and seized on the error to feed Bruno Fernandes on the right. And when he played Rashford in, the United forward ignored a man waiting for a pass to his left and drove the ball low and hard across Danny Ward and in with his right foot.
Leicester had made the art of scoring a goal look quite difficult. This was proof that it need not be that way.
Now that that they had the lead, United were better, much better.They no longer allowed themselves to be stretched in quite the same way by an opponent who only really fashioned one more chance in the half, Tete and Maddison combining right to left to present Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall with an opening that he lifted towards the far post and wide.
United, meanwhile, spurned the opportunity to turn a good half in to an even better one. Wout Weghorst, playing in a deeper position behind Rashford, stole the ball to start a United move and when Diogo Dalot advanced to take a return pass from Fernandes only six yards from goal it seemed he must score. Somehow the full-back – unaccustomed to being so far upfield – got his feet mixed up and prodded a weak shot wide.
Ten Hag must have noted the holes in his team’s performance as he made a change for the second half. Alejandro Garnacho was replaced by Jadon Sancho. This involved a positional reshuffle, too, as Weghorst was pushed up front with Rashford moving to the left.
It was from this position that Rashford scored his second goal four minutes before the hour. United had already threatened twice, Lisandro Martinez heading a free-kick on to the bar and then Rashford being denied by Ward when clear.
Erik ten Hag made five changes from the Man United side that drew 2-2 in Barcelona on Thursday night
Brendan Rodgers saw his Leicester City side squander early chances before going behind against the run of play
Then a super first time ball by Fred inside full-back Castagne released Rashford off the flank and he cut in to score. An offside flag seemed set to deny United but VAR analysis revealed Faes to have been playing Rashford on and the goal stood.
The game was done now. Leicester’s early dominance was a thing of the past. With half an hour still to play, it was suddenly about damage limitation for Rodgers and his players and they had good reason to worry as United stole the ball again to break for number three.
A pass upfield to Iheanacho was stolen, perhaps with the help of a shirt pull, by Martinez and when the Argentinean moved the ball quickly to Rashford, he was able to supply Sancho and when he in turn laid it wide to Fernandes, he was able to take the return pass and bury the goal in from 10 yards.
It had been a golden period of United football. Their ability to create a take chances is pretty much unrivalled in the Premier League right now. That said, Leicester had not helped themselves. Time and time again, their back four was caught square. And Sancho was released again with 20 minutes remaining only to Faes to come across and cover this time.
Source: Read Full Article