Manchester United extended their unbeaten run under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to 10 games with a narrow victory against Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
Marcus Rashford continued his goalscoring form with the winner in the ninth minute – his 10th goal of the season.
Ricardo Pereira’s poor clearance was straight into the path of Paul Pogba, who lofted the ball towards Rashford, the England striker allowing it to come over his shoulder before taking a neat touch and drilling a low shot past Kasper Schmeichel.
Inconsistency has been the story of Leicester’s season and this defeat came on the back of a well-earned point at Liverpool on Wednesday, but they did have their chances.
Jamie Vardy connected with a bicycle kick after James Maddison’s free-kick bounced off the wall, but fired straight at David de Gea.
De Gea also made a diving one-handed save to prevent Rachid Ghezzal’s free-kick from hitting the top corner of his goal.
United dropped their first points under Solskjaer in a 2-2 draw with Burnley on Tuesday, but boosted their hopes of a top-four spot and Champions League football next season with Sunday’s win.
They move up to fifth, two points behind Chelsea in fourth. Leicester, meanwhile, stay in 11th.
Sanchez struggles for United
This was a case of United getting the job done, without ever really moving up through the gears.
Against Burnley, Solskjaer’s starting XI had struggled in attack and he swung the axe for the trip to Leicester with Romelu Lukaku dropped to the bench in one of four changes.
Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly returned to the team and United started on the front foot.
Rashford missed a close-range header in the fourth minute, before making amends with his goal.
Sanchez started on the left side of the attack but barely contributed in his 67 minutes on the pitch, cutting an isolated figure and failing to register a shot.
But Solskjaer defended the Chilean, saying: “He worked really well defensively. He is improving all the time.”
Although dominant for large parts of the game, United only mustered six attempts on target.
Four of those came in the first half, while it took until the 87th for their first shot on target in the second half, an easy save by Schmeichel from Lukaku, on as a late substitute.
And there were nervous moments at the end of the match as Leicester pushed for an equaliser.
But another clean sheet and their ninth win in 10 games under Solskjaer continued their momentum under the Norwegian, with a tricky run of fixtures coming up including Paris St-Germain in the Champions League, Chelsea in the FA Cup and Liverpool in the Premier League.
“Our attitude was spot on,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “There are a couple of bruised noses and knees.
“It is supposed to be like this. There are three points on the line. Our lads sacrificed everything they had. They know they can do better than this but a clean sheet is always a foundation to build on.”
Foxes fail to recover from early blow
The Foxes have performed well against top-six sides, with a draw at Anfield and wins against Chelsea and Manchester City.
But they failed to build on that momentum and continued their dreadful home record, losing their third consecutive game at the King Power.
The home fans will also have been disappointed to see midfielder Youri Tielemans, who joined on loan from Monaco on deadline day, left out of the match-day squad.
Leicester paid the price for a slow start, but responded well after conceding early, finishing the first half the stronger and continued to threaten after the break.
James Maddison was their most threatening attacking player, but he was replaced by Ghezzal after just the hour mark – an unpopular move with the home fans by manager Claude Puel.
The Frenchman defended his decision, saying: “We have to find a solution. We have players on the bench who have quality.”
A flurry of chances fell the home team’s way in the dying minutes, with Vardy missing with a weak shot and Harry Maguire shooting wide in the 94th minute.
The pressure will remain on Puel, who is now without a win since 1 January, a run of six games.
“We started the game with a poor performance and without intensity,” he added. “It was a shame. In the second half we showed a lot of things with more desire and quality in our play.
“We put them under pressure at the end of the game but it was not enough.”
Man of the match – Paul Pogba
Solskjaer leads the league – the best stats
- United have won five consecutive away games in all competitions for the first time since October 2012.
- Leicester have lost more Premier League games against United (17) than they have against any other side.
- Since Solskjaer’s first game in charge of United on 22 December, Pogba has had a hand in more Premier League goals than any other player (11 – six goals, five assists).
- Leicester have lost four of their last five games in all competitions, as many as they had lost in their previous 15 matches combined.
- Rashford has scored more goals in all competitions since his debut (42) than any other United player.
- United have won four more points than any other Premier League team since Solskjaer’s first match in charge (won seven, drawn one – 22 points).
- Only Ryan Giggs (21 years and 74 days) has reached 100 Premier League appearances for United at a younger age than Rashford (21 years and 95 days).
United travel to Fulham on Saturday (12:30 GMT), while Leicester face Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday (13:30).