MANCHESTER, England (AP) — In this kind of form Marcus Rashford might just fire Manchester United to the Premier League title and more.
The striker scored twice to set up a 3-0 win against Leicester on Sunday as Erik ten Hag’s team closed in on second-place Manchester City and kept the pressure on table-topping Arsenal.
That’s 16 goals in 17 games for Rashford since returning from the World Cup in a run that has prompted fans to label him the best player in the world right now.
Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe – and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo – might have something to say about that, but United’s four-pronged trophy pursuit has been energized by Rashford’s outstanding form.
The England international fired his team in front on 25 minutes at Old Trafford after United withstood an early onslaught from Leicester.
He scored a second in the 56th and substitute Jadon Sancho added a third five minutes later.
Rashford has scored in seven straight Premier League games at home, which is the longest run for a United player since Wayne Rooney’s eight-game streak in the 2009-10 campaign. Ronaldo had a sequence of scoring in 10 straight games in 2008, but it is a measure of Rashford’s form that he is keeping company with such iconic names.
He now has a career-best 24 goals this season and is showing no signs of slowing down, no matter what the opposition.
His latest strikes came after he scored in the 2-2 draw with Barcelona in the Europa League on Thursday to further enhance his reputation around the world.
After that epic at the Nou Camp, it was back to the league for United and the chance to continue its push toward the top.
As unlikely as a title bid looked at the start of the season, there is growing belief that United can force its way into serious contention as the leading two falter.
City’s surprise 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday meant third-place United was able to cut the gap to Pep Guardiola’s team to three points. And while Arsenal came from behind to beat Aston Villa 4-2 and move back to the top of the table, it was the Londoners’ first win in five games.
United has stumbled itself in recent weeks when given the chance to really put the pressure on at the top, with dropped points against Leeds and a loss to Arsenal.
For 25 minutes it looked like United was in for another slipup as Leicester twice threatened to go ahead and only the efforts of David de Gea kept the visitors at bay.
The United goalkeeper stuck out a foot to stop Harvey Barnes when the Leicester forward went through on goal after eight minutes and was down sharply to push away Kelechi Inheanacho’s header shortly after.
United sparked into life when Bruno Fernandes’ quick through ball with the outside of his boot sent Rashford away. The forward simply doesn’t look like missing at the moment and he fired low past Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward with a clinical finish.
He raced clear again in the second half to beat Ward, with VAR eventually giving the goal after the offside flag was raised.
Sancho put the game beyond doubt at the end of a sweeping move.
United is now five points behind leader Arsenal but has played one game more.
United will play Newcastle in the League Cup final next Sunday. It faces West Ham in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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