Erik ten Hag said Marcus Rashford helped Manchester United recover from a “rubbish” start as the England forward’s double inspired a 3-0 win against Leicester as the race to buy the Old Trafford club gathers pace.
In the other Premier League match played on Sunday, Son Heung-min produced the perfect response after being dropped as the South Korea forward came off the bench to seal Tottenham’s 2-0 win against West Ham 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 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.
“Leicester played brilliant in the first half but second we were rubbish. We were really inconsequential, undisciplined. It was only by David de Gea that we kept our clean-sheet,” Ten Hag said.
“We repaired some stuff and the second half was brilliant. It was the way I wanted to see our team playing.”
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.
“He’s getting in the right position, but don’t forget our team because they are team goals,” Ten Hag said.
United sit third in the table, just five points behind leaders Arsenal, after a third win in their last four league matches.
Ten Hag played down his side’s hopes of catching Arsenal, who have a game in hand on United.
“We don’t think about the title race. We think about the next game,” he said.
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.
In addition to Rashford’s brace, Jadon Sancho scored United’s third in the 61st minute of play to complete the rout.
Son has struggled badly this season and his poor form convinced Tottenham’s absentee boss Antonio Conte to axe him for the Premier League clash.
Prior to this weekend, the 30-year-old had scored in only four matches this season.
But Son made his point to Conte as he came off the bench to net Tottenham’s second goal after Emerson Royal put the hosts ahead in the second half.
Son’s ninth goal in all competitions this season mirrored his hat-trick against Leicester in September, which came after he was dropped and then introduced as a substitute.
“Nobody wants to sit on the bench but it’s a decision you have to accept. The decision is always made by the manager and I need to accept,” Son said.
“I tried my best to help the team. I got the chance and I was happy to score. The pass was really good and my first touch helped to make the goal.”
Tottenham’s win over their struggling London rivals lifted them one point above Newcastle into fourth place, although the Magpies have a game in hand.
Conte was watching on television back home in Italy after deciding he had returned too soon following his gallbladder surgery, with assistant coach Cristian Stellini taking instructions from his recuperating manager.
It was a much-needed victory for Tottenham, who were thrashed at Leicester last weekend, then lost 1-0 at AC Milan in the Champions league last 16 first leg.
Stellini has now won all three matches while deputising for Conte this season.
“The moment was important and it was the moment for Son. With the space, Son is an amazing player and we try to use him in this way,” Stellini said.
“Son has a goal so we are happy for him. He has to stay calm and produce his best performance. At the moment he is not 100 percent so we have to manage him.”