Red-hot Rashford comes to Man United's rescue again in victory over Leeds

Resurgent forward scores his 13th goal in 15 games to give Erik ten Hag's side three points at Elland Road

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Where would Manchester United and Erik ten Hag be this season without Marcus Rashford.

Time and again this term a weary United have struggled to get over the line, lacking the strength in depth, especially in the strike department, to turn tight games into crucial victories.

At Elland Road on Sunday, a weary United had nothing left in the tank coming into the final 10 minutes of the tightly-contested, feisty derby clash with Leeds United.

A win could have taken them, temporarily at least, second in the table, but a goal did not look like it was coming. One chance, however, is all Rashford 2.0 needs. A bullet header, out of nowhere, set his team on their way to yet another victory that without the resurgent England hitman, would not be possible.

Alejandro Garnacho put the game to bed to show there is at least some depth to the United changing room, but Rashford, once more, had done all the damage.

February is unrelenting for Manchester United. Ten games between February 1 and March 1 is a brutal schedule for any sporting team, but with players still yet to have had a break since the World Cup, the schedule has left United running on fumes.

When Jadon Sancho’s equaliser completed the comeback in the reverse fixture against Leeds only four days previous, United teams of old would have been odds on to have found a late winner, by hook or by crook.

But, for the first time in their recent revival, United are showing signs of weariness. Without several key players through injury or suspension, Erik ten Hag’s team just did not have another goal in them.

Early on at Elland Road, there was only one team in the contest. The visitors just could not get close enough to their opponents, and when they did, they were met with the full force of the tackle, backed by a vociferous crowd baying for blood.

Crysencio Summerville should have scored early on but blazed over, with it taking United 20 minutes to even muster a first attack, Fernandes dragging an effort well wide.

The atmosphere stayed red-hot, but the action on the pitch was far more tepid. It took until the end of the opening period for more presentable openings to be created, with Summerville again going close, denied by David De Gea, before Bruno Fernandes found himself clean through on goal in first-half stoppage time.

Manchester United 2 Leeds 2 - player ratings

The Portuguese took his time to pick his spot, arrowed a strike for the bottom corner, but was denied by the foot of Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal.

Ten Hag shuffled his pack after the break, bringing Lisandro Martinez on in defence, a player so key to instigating United attacks from deep, and withdrew Sancho, whose first start since October produced very few memorable moments.

The energy was simply not there, however. Diogo Dalot thundered a long-range effort against crossbar from distance, but with a lack of squad options to refresh things, Ten Hag’s hands were tied, with a crucial Europa League qualifier in Barcelona to come in the week.

The Dutch coach’s paucity of suitable reinforcements was clear for all to see as when Garnacho came on for Sancho midway through the second half, the giant Wout Weghort, hardly renowned for his ingenuity, found himself as a No 10.

As has been the case for much of the season, it fell on one, resurgent local hero to drag United out of a hole.

The cross from Luke Shaw, another United player who has been rejuvenated under Ten Hag, as a central defender or as full-back, was inch perfect on to the head of the England international, who made no mistake with a bullet header.

Last season, when being booed by his own supporters, Rashford was anything but clinical, with his confidence at rock bottom. Now, the lethal marksman, as Ten Hag has transformed the 25-year-old into, only needs one opening to settle crucial contests and earn his side a victory they might not necessarily deserve.

Garnacho responded to his manager’s calls for him to be more clinical with his game-clinching second, but Leeds, like many before him this term, had been slain by United’s one and only game-changer in attack.

Updated: February 12, 2023, 5:09 PM