Marcus Rashford showed Manchester United won’t be distracted by the race to buy the Old Trafford club as his double inspired a 3-0 win against Leicester on Sunday.
United owners the Glazer family are considering rival offers from Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of one of Qatar’s biggest banks, and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.
Further bids could still be made amid reports United may be under new ownership within six weeks — but Erik ten Hag’s side have kept their focus firmly on the pitch.
Rashford has been the key to United’s impressive form in Ten Hag’s first season and the England forward proved too hot for Leicester to handle at Old Trafford.
Rashford has scored 24 times in all competitions for United this season, the highest goal tally he has ever managed in a single campaign.
Remarkably, 16 of those goals have come in 17 appearances since he returned from the World Cup in December.
The 25-year-old is also the first United player to score in seven consecutive home league games since Wayne Rooney in 2010.
Rashford endured a difficult period prior to Ten Hag’s appointment last season, sparking suggestions the forward might look to leave Old Trafford.
But Rashford is now United’s most influential player as he rediscovers the form that made him a teen sensation.
– Silverware drought –
United sit third in the table, just five points behind leaders Arsenal, after a third win in their last four league matches.
Ten Hag has played down his side’s hopes of catching Arsenal, who have a game in hand on United.
But if United do fall short in the title race, there are other opportunities to make it a memorable season in what could be the final campaign of the unpopular Glazers’ 18-year reign.
United are without a major trophy since 2017, when they won the League Cup and the Europa League, while their last Premier League crown came 10 years ago.
The silverware drought could end this term, with United hosting Barcelona in the second leg of their Europa League play-off on Thursday before playing Newcastle in the League Cup final three days later.
United are also through to the FA Cup fifth round, where they face West Ham in March.
– Rampant Rashford –
After drawing 2-2 at Barcelona on Thursday, Ten Hag made five changes to freshen up his team ahead of their pivotal week.
David De Gea made a superb save to deny Harvey Barnes in the early stages after the Leicester winger surged onto Kelechi Iheanacho’s pass.
Harry Souttar headed just over from the resulting corner before Iheanacho’s deflected effort rolled narrowly wide.
Only De Gea was keeping United afloat and the Spaniard plunged to his right to make a brilliant stop from Iheanacho’s stooping header.
Fittingly, De Gea finished with his 180th United clean-sheet, moving him level with Peter Schmeichel’s all time record for the club.
After Leicester’s barrage, they were hit with a Rashford sucker punch in the 25th minute.
Bruno Fernandes’s deft pass with the outside of his boot exposed Leicester’s creaky offside trap, and Rashford sprinted clear to fire a clinical finish into the far corner from 12 yards.
Rashford’s goal came against the run of play, but it was reward for Ten Hag’s decision to deploy his star as United’s central striker rather than on the flanks.
United had seized the momentum and they should have been two up when Diogo Dalot somehow shanked Fernandes’s cross wide from close-range.
Rashford’s speed and movement made him unplayable at times and he doubled United’s lead in the 56th minute.
Accelerating onto Fred’s pass, Rashford guided a composed finish past Ward, with his celebrations briefly halted by an offside flag that was overturned by VAR.
Leicester were in disarray and Jadon Sancho put the result beyond doubt in the 61st minute when the substitute slotted home from Fernandes’s pass.