The eyes of the footballing world were focused on a rocking Old Trafford as the old foes went toe-to-toe in search of their first Premier League wins of the season.
United had started the weekend bottom of the table after their four-goal humbling at Brentford compounded the home loss to Brighton, but Ten Hag’s side responded with a display of determination, aggression and skill.
Sancho showed remarkable composure when putting the hosts ahead and Rashford extended their advantage early in the second half, with Ten Hag’s men holding out for victory after Mohamed Salah reduced the deficit late on.
It was a nervy conclusion but getting over the line underlined the turnaround in character and performance from last weekend’s loss at Brentford, as well as last season’s humiliations home and away to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
"It means a lot. Our first two games didn't go so well and had it turn it around today," Sancho told Sky Sports.
"Last week hurt a lot and we knew we had to bounce back and tonight we showed the fans what we can do.
"It means a lot to all of us, you can see how the fans are reacting. We got the three points but on to the next one.
"We just have to produce like today in every single game. Happy we got the three points and we move on."
New signing Casemiro will have liked what he saw and was introduced to the Old Trafford faithful before kick-off – but that move was never going to take the edge off United fans’ protests against their despised owners.
Thousands marched to the match and anti-Glazer chants provided a constant backdrop to Monday’s match without detracting from their support of the team, who responded with a quality performance.
Anthony Elanga hit a post and soon set up Sancho to coolly score in a first half that ended with Lisandro Martinez preventing Bruno Fernandes from scoring an own goal.
Anthony Martial was introduced at half-time and put Rashford through to end his 997-minute goal drought in all competitions, with the hosts threatening to pull further ahead before David De Gea’s goal came under late pressure.
United’s No 1 was unable to prevent Salah’s late header creeping in but the team dug deep to seal the three points, meaning they leapt above Liverpool in the table.