Marcus Rashford’s remarkable form continued with a thumping brace as Manchester United survived a sloppy start to comfortably beat Leicester in the Premier League following a build-up dominated by takeover talk.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS company confirmed they had submitted bids to buy the club from the Glazer family in the lead up to Sunday’s Premier League match.
Erik ten Hag said his team were not distracted by that but looked leggy after Thursday’s Europa League draw at Barcelona, riding their luck against Leicester before Jadon Sancho complemented Rashford’s double in a 3-0 win.
The 25-year-old has scored 16 goals in 17 matches since the World Cup to take his tally to 24, breaking his previous single-season scoring record of 22 for his boyhood club before February was out.
Rashford’s confident, low opener came after David De Gea had kept United in it against Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester, denying Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho with outstanding saves.
It allowed the Spaniard to equal Peter Schmeichel’s club record of 180 clean sheets and provided the platform for victory, with Rashford’s second awarded after a VAR review before substitute Sancho struck.
The three points keeps United’s Premier League title hopes alive and sets them up nicely for a pair of crucial games, with the return leg against Barcelona followed by the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle.
This had looked anything other than a 3-0 home win during the start made by Leicester, who found De Gea in inspired form in the seventh minute when denying Barnes’ snapshot with a superb one-handed reaction stop.
Harry Souttar headed over from the resulting corner and Iheanacho saw a drive blocked by Victor Lindelof after James Maddison opened up United’s sloppy backline.
Fred blocked a dangerous cross and Tete tried his luck from an acute angle, before De Gea came to the rescue again as Iheanacho met a cross to the far post with a header into the ground that he clawed away brilliantly.
It seemed a matter of when rather than if there would be an opener, but few expected it come at the other end given the pattern of play.
Marcel Sabitzer cut out a sloppy Wout Faes pass and Bruno Fernandes brilliantly played in Rashford, who could have cut across for Alejandro Garnacho but instead confidently struck low past Danny Ward.
Anti-Glazer chants immediately followed the 25th-minute opener, which saw the forward become the first United player to score in seven straight home league games since Wayne Rooney in 2010.
Kieran Dewsbury-Hall dragged wide and Maddison went close in stoppage time as Leicester looked to respond, but United should have been two up after the break as Diogo Dalot failed to convert a Fernandes cross.
Luke Shaw struck a free-kick over with the last effort of the half and crossed over another three minutes after the break, with Lisandro Martinez meeting it with a header that rattled the crossbar.
Rashford, moved to the left after Sancho’s half-time introduction, cut inside past two but fired straight at Ward as the hosts pushed for a second that they were initially denied in the 56th minute.
Rashford was sent scampering through to all too easily beat Ward, only for the offside flag to be raised.
It was a tight-looking call and one that went the hosts’ way after review by the VAR, who adjudged the forward onside when put through by Fred to spark belated celebrations at Old Trafford.
United made it 3-0 five minutes later as Martinez dispossessed Iheanacho at the halfway line, kicking off a superb, sweeping team break.
Sabitzer played onto Rashford and the forward pushed the ball onto Sancho, who spread right to Fernandes and met his first-time ball back into the box with an assured finish in front of the Stretford End.
Shaw saw a strike with his weak foot saved, before Sancho and Wout Weghorst had attempts to add gloss as United made changes with Barcelona in mind.
Leicester substitute Dennis Praet saw an attempt blocked, with Weghorst thwarted late on and Fernandes clipping onto the roof of the net as the match wound down to a conclusion.