Marcus Rashford continued his fantastic form in front of goal to help Manchester United thrash Leicester and stay in touch with Arsenal and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
Leicester came out of the blocks fast at Old Trafford and were twice denied by great saves from David de Gea, who kept out Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho. Those stops proved crucial as United exploited the visitors' high line to send Rashford through to make it 1-0 with a powerful finish.
Erik ten Hag changed things around at the break, bringing on Jadon Sancho for Alejandro Garnacho, and it worked wonders. Having been shifted over to the left wing, Rashford charged in behind once more to beat Danny Ward in similar fashion.
Sancho then made it 3-0 with a side-footed finish from Bruno Fernandes ' low cross following a swift move after Leicester gave the ball away. Lisandro Martinez hit the bar with a header and Wout Weghorst missed a few presentable opportunities as United failed to add more gloss to the scoreline.
United remain third in the Premier League table, but are now just three points behind rivals City following their 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday, while Arsenal are five points away in first with a game in hand. Here are the talking points from an impressive performance from United.
De Gea keeps United in it
De Gea has been United’s first choice goalkeeper for so long that he has quite the collection of world-class saves. But the Spaniard’s compilation needs updating to include the two he made early on against Leicester, such were their quality.
Barnes looked odds-on to score when he went through early on, but De Gea’s flexibility and reactions combined to produce a great stop. His second save was even better – the United keeper getting across to his back post to claw out Iheanacho’s diving header.
A career as long as De Gea’s is always likely to see criticism come and go, but one thing is sure: his shot-stopping is still up there with the best.
Rashford on fire
Leicester pushed hard for an opener, but their high defensive line was asking for trouble – and they got it 25 minutes in when Fernandes lifted the ball over the top for Rashford to chase.
The United striker is in such good form at the moment that there was no doubt what the result would be. He took one glance across to see if he had support, then smashed an unstoppable low shot past Ward to make it 1-0.
Rashford’s purple patch is so good that it deserves emphasising with a few statistics. He has now scored in five successive games and has 16 goals in 17 games altogether since returning from the World Cup.
He is in the form of his life, with 24 strikes for the 2022/23 season already the most he’s ever managed in a single season in his senior club career. He played down the middle in the first half and off the left in the second. It did not matter: both positions resulted in goals.
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Wide open Foxes
As impressive as United's finishing was, they were certainly helped on their way by Leicester's questionable tactics.
When you have two lumbering centre-backs and are defending against an in-form Rashford, it is not wise to take on a high defensive line. Harry Souttar and Wout Faes are a new defensive pairing, but their lack of pace should be obvious to manager Brendan Rodgers.
The duo were guilty of stepping far too high up, especially when their midfield was not applying much pressure to the ball. Fernandes is a very capable passer - and he did not find it particularly difficult to set up the opening goal with an outside-of-the-boot, while Fred released Rashford again for the second with a more conventional pass.
Leicester have been much improved since the January transfer window, and they looked dangerous in attack, but their defensive positioning needs a lot of work.
It was a commanding win from United, but Ten Hag definitely will have taken note of the problems in central midfield.
With Casemiro still suspended and Christian Eriksen injured, it fell upon Fred to play alongside Marcel Sabitzer at Old Trafford. Neither had a good game, with Sabitzer's sluggish start since arriving on loan from Bayern Munich continuing.
The Austrian was fortunate to even stay on the pitch following a nasty studs-up challenge on Faes in the first half. Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness believed it was a straight red card, but fortunately for Sabitzer, VAR did not agree.
Fred was guilty of vacating his position too frequently to allow Leicester to break upon United's back line. His passing was also a touch sloppy, resulting in the needless surrender of possession. The Brazilian was replaced by Scott McTominay in the 59th minute, with the Scottish international making his return after missing three Premier League games with a muscle problem.
Ten Hag tactics come up trumps
Ten Hag is enjoying a great spell at the moment, with his in-game decisions bringing about positive results for United. After bamboozling Xavi with his tactical tweak at Barcelona in mid-week, the Dutchman was at it again here.
At half-time Ten Hag brought on Sancho for Garnacho, who had struggled to contain Timothy Castagne's runs forward. The change saw Rashford move to the left wing, with Weghorst going to No9 and Sancho in as a No10.
The move was left-field, but it certainly worked. Rashford scored his second goal by running in behind from his position on the left, while Sancho made it 3-0 with a clinical move and finish from No10.
Sancho's return from injury is a huge boost for United, who now have another fantastic option in the final third to complement the in-form Rashford. All Ten Hag needs now is for Weghorst to come to the party.