Marcus Rashford guides Manchester United past Leicester
Interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversees 10th unbeaten game of his tenure
Marcus Rashford celebrates opening the scoring for Manchester United against Leicester City. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty
Leicester City 0 Manchester United 1
The Ole Gunnar Solskjær bandwagon rolls on. For the first time since the days when Alex Ferguson was in charge – back in the 2012-13 season – Manchester United have racked up five successive away victories. The latest came courtesy of another goal from Marcus Rashford, who looks like a player reborn under Solskjær and marked his 100th Premier League appearance in style.
In truth, it was a long way from being a vintage United performance and Leicester, who have beaten Chelsea and Manchester City and drawn with Liverpool in the last six weeks, had enough chances to salvage something from the game. A couple of those opportunities fell to Jamie Vardy, Harry Maguire screwed a shot wide in the closing stages and David de Gea produced a wonderful save to keep out Rachid Ghezzal’s free-kick.
Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial came off the bench for United and both could have given the visitors some breathing space by adding a second. In the end it mattered little, as United defended resolutely to hold on for a victory that continues their charge for a Champions League berth and maintains their unbeaten record since Solskjær took over.
There were only nine minutes on the clock when Rashford put United ahead but it is a measure of how well they started the game that it felt as though the goal had been coming. In fact, Rashford should have scored five minutes earlier, when he ghosted in between Maguire and Ben Chilwell to meet Luke Shaw’s inviting cross with a header from inside the six-yard box that sailed over the bar. Rashford would not be so forgiving with his next chance.
From Leicester’s perspective it was an awful goal to concede. Ricardo Pereira, picking up the ball deep inside the Leicester half, played a loose and careless pass that was intended for Nampalys Mendy. Pogba easily cut the ball out and flighted a perfectly weighted pass in behind Maguire and Chilwell, the same two defenders who had lost Rashford moments earlier. Rashford cushioned the ball beautifully with his first touch and thrashed it home powerfully and unerringly with his second, giving Kasper Schmeichel no chance.
At that stage United were in total control, playing with freedom and confidence and it was easy to fear for Leicester. Yet slowly but surely Claude Puel’s side managed to eke their way back into the game and cause United a few problems at the other end. Leicester looked particularly dangerous from corners, where James Maddison’s excellent delivery was causing consternation in the United area. Jonny Evans, the former United defender, was unlucky to see a glancing header drift wide.
It was Maddison who had Leicester’s best chance during that period. The ball broke kindly to the midfielder after ricocheting between a couple of United players, and everything pointed to an equaliser when he prepared to shoot from little more than 12 yards out, only for Luke Shaw to get across and make a superb block.
United seemed to be playing within themselves a little, almost as if they felt they could coast and only occasionally go through the gears. Rashford, set free by Ander Herrera, had a chance on the stroke of half-time when his low shot from the edge of the area was saved by Schmeichel but that was the first time that United had seriously threatened since early on.
Leicester continued to press for an equaliser after the interval and Vardy came close to providing it with an acrobatic effort from 12 yards. Maddison’s free-kick struck the wall, looped up and dropped invitingly for the striker, who swivelled before hitting a powerful shot that De Gea gathered at the second attempt.
That turned out to be Maddison’s last act, with Puel’s decision to withdraw Leicester’s most creative player with just under half an hour remaining an unpopular one with the home supporters. Ghezzal came on in Maddison’s place and Demarai Gray moved into the No 10 role. Curiously, though, Gray only lasted 12 minutes there before he was substituted.
Ghezzal did force De Gea into a spectacular save with a 30-yard free-kick that the Spaniard clawed away from his top corner. Set-pieces continued to offer Leicester’s best hope of a goal. Another Ghezzal free-kick, this time crossed into the area from out wide, was headed back across goal by Maguire only for Evans to completely miss his kick. Then came late chances for Vardy and Maguire, after Schmeichel had denied Lukaku and Martial.