Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag could have been forgiven for treating the visit of Leicester in the Premier League with less-than-full attention.
On Thursday, Barcelona are in town for a do-or-die Europa League clash with the play-off tie’s victors surely to be among the favourites for that title, before actual proper silverware is on offer in next weekend’s Carabao Cup final against Newcastle.
Some still believe United still have a role to play in the Premier League title race and Ten Hag is at pains to point out that no other team in Europe remains in four competitions, partly explaining the five changes he made to his line-up against the Foxes on Sunday.
But when you have Marcus Rashford in your team, the identity of the other ten players can often feel immaterial.
It was Rashford who, when Kelechi Iheanacho’s Leicester were dominating and making chances with ease, punished slack defending to bury the opener. And it was Rashford beating the offside trap to grab a key second goal shortly after the break as United went within three points of second-placed Manchester City.
The opener was the definition of the term ‘against the run of play’ as Leicester did everything but score early on.
First it was Harvey Barnes darting in behind after fine link-up play with Iheanacho, forcing a superb one-handed save from David De Gea before Harry Souttar headed narrowly over from the resulting corner.
United looked all at sea in their own half, Fred continuously giving the ball away and Alejandro Garnacho’s lack of tracking back exposed as Timothy Castagne gallopped forward into dangerous areas.
The Belgian stood up a fine cross to the far post on 20 minutes which Iheanacho stooped to head goalwards, only to find De Gea in Gordon Banks levels of form as he superbly leapt backwards to scoop the ball off the line.
It was therefore a surprise when United broke the deadlock, albeit not at all that it was Rashford who grabbed the opener. Wout Faes bafflingly abandoned the defensive line to leave Souttar trying in vain to catch the striker offside.
Rashford duly raced forward to slam home his 15th goal since the World Cup, a figure nobody in Europe’s top leagues is anywhere near.
Diogo Dalot missed a sitter as United sought to punish Leicester for dropping off, Ten Hag acting quickly at the break to take Garnacho off and reshuffle to combat Castagne’s threat.
Lisandro Martinez cracked the crossbar and Danny Ward blocked Rashford’s effort before the inevitable second goal arrived, VAR oveturning an initial offside call to confirm Rashford’s best-ever goalscoring season with his 24th of the campaign.
Sancho, who put in a superb shift centrally with Rashford moved out to the left and Weghorst elevated up front, popped up for 3-0 just after the hour mark and Ten Hag began to think of Barcelona – saving his star forward and Luke Shaw from the final 20 minutes.