Rashford and De Gea's heroics steer Man United past battling Leicester at Old Trafford

Dutch manager Erik ten Hag has turned team into great entertainers once more

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“We are all enjoying what is happening here,” Erik ten Hag proclaimed in his pre-match programme notes ahead of the visit of Leicester, buoyed by the return of front-foot football at Manchester United this season, a sight that had Barcelona coach Xavi eulogising over after Thursday’s breathless 2-2 draw with Barcelona.

Ten Hag is right to feel very pleased with himself at what he has accomplished in a short time in England. It is the return of the enjoyment factor that is most impressive, with the improvement in results an added bonus.

It took a while for United to get going against the in-form Foxes on Sunday, with some superhuman stops from David de Gea reminding everyone that a goalkeeper is just as important as any fleet-footed crowd pleaser further forward, but once they clicked into gear some of the football on show was electrifying, with the finishing touch applied, of course, by Marcus Rashford.

The England international’s double in the 3-0 victory, which could have easily been a hat-trick, took his tally to 24 for the season, two more than his career best for a season.

Since the World Cup, Rashford has 16 goals in all competitions – six more than any other player across Europe’s major leagues and 12 more than Chelsea have mustered in the same period.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Rashford said: "Overall 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].

"I don't feel like slowing down and always want to improve."

Rashford and United’s Sunday afternoon, however, could have had a very different outcome had it not been for their ever-reliable custodian between the sticks.

The first stop to deny Harvey Barnes early on was nothing short of world-class, clawing the goalbound shot out when the ball was already past him. If anyone else tried to keep such an attempt out, it would have required a hospital visit to pop a shoulder back in afterwards.

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Another superb spring to his right helped De Gea tip Kelechi Iheanacho’s shot around the post. Both Leicester players could not have done more to break the deadlock.

It seemed somewhat inevitable that United would eventually find their rhythm and once they did, there was only going to be one winner.

Bruno Fernandes’ role in the United renaissance has been downplayed, with Rashford’s goalscoring exploits monopolising the headlines. But the simple matter is that when the Portuguese playmaker finds his optimum level, so do his team.

The pass for Rashford’s opener was perfect in its weight and placement, with power doing the rest as Rashford hammered United in front.

All was not completely rosy in Old Trafford as, at the end of a tumultuous week as the club seek a new owner, fans made their feelings known as to who they want to take the reins with some pointed chanting from the terraces – anyone but the Glazer family.

The start of the second half was very different from the first, with United creating all the chances. Lisandro Martinez headed against the crossbar while Rashford should have added a second after darting inside and firing too close to the goalkeeper.

United and Rashford did not have to wait long for the goal that effectively killed off any Leicester hope of getting anything from the encounter. Another drilled Rashford finish was initially ruled out for offside but not even VAR can stop the 25-year-old scoring at the moment, as he slotted home 11 minutes after the break.

United saved the best for last as Jadon Sancho stepped off the bench, played a sumptuous one-two with Fernandes, and stroked the ball home in the blink of an eye, lifting the roof off Old Trafford, which once again had been well and truly entertained.

The mouthwatering matches continue later this week as Barcelona come to Manchester for the second leg of their Europa League play-off tie, which, if it is anything like the first encounter, will never see supporters stray far from the edge of their seats.

No matter who the opponent, however, few can live with the United entertainers firmly on the path to a brighter future.

Updated: February 19, 2023, 4:37 PM