Louis van Gaal’s United, who were still reeling from their Europa League exit at the hands of arch-rivals Liverpool on Thursday, showed great character to pick themselves up to grind out a result over their “noisy neighbours”.
And it was all thanks to a piece of individual brilliance from the young sensation Rashford, who had played in the Under-19 Manchester derby just seven weeks ago.
On Sunday, Rashford showed how ruthless he can be in front of goal when Spanish teammate Juan Mata found him at the edge of the box as he displayed superb speed and skill to slip the tackle of veteran City central defender Martin Demichelis and beat Joe Hart to put United ahead after 16 minutes.
Just 120 seconds before that, Jesus Navas had a great chance to put City ahead, but his shot was well saved with his feet by United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Rashford carried the United attack in the continued absence of the injured club captain Wayne Rooney, who was watching from the stands – along with former manager Alex Ferguson.
The young English striker enjoyed excellent support from French teammate Anthony Martial, who was a threat whenever he had the ball around the City penalty area.
Van Gaal’s men had the better of the first half, with Martial and Jesse Lingard creating openings on goal, but they were unable to finish.
Losing England forward Raheem Sterling to a foot injury after 25 minutes seemed to upset City’s rhythm on attack, as the hosts hardly had a shot on target in the opening half.
But Manuel Pellegrini’s City grew in confidence as the match wore on, with captain Yaya Toure becoming more influential in the second half.
The home side dominated the last half-an-hour, with the rather quiet Argentine striker Sergio Aguero springing into life with a shot and a header in the 56th and 66th minutes respectively, but one went over the bar and the other was saved by De Gea.
The likes of Bacary Sanga and Navas brought width to the City attack in the last quarter by whipping in crosses, but United central defender Chris Smalling was the rock for the Red Devils as he dealt with any danger inside the box.
Van Gaal would’ve been relieved to see his team pull through after the Europa League disappointment, with the three points taking United level with fifth-placed West Ham on 50, with the Hammers having a better goal difference of just one.
With eight matches left, United will feel they have a real chance of securing a top-four spot and Champions League football for next season.
Meanwhile at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur kept in touch with log-leaders Leicester City with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Bournemouth.
England striker Harry Kane grabbed a first-half brace, with Christian Eriksen adding a third after halftime.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs kept the five-point gap with Leicester intact, after the Foxes beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Sunday’s Premier League Results
Manchester City 0 Manchester United 1 (Marcus Rashford 16’)
Tottenham Hotspur 3 (Harry Kane 1’ 16’ Christian Eriksen 52’) Bournemouth 0
Southampton 3 (Sadio Mane 64’ 86’ Graziano Pelle 83’) Liverpool 2 (Philippe Coutinho 17’ Daniel Sturridge 22’)
Newcastle 1 (Aleksander Mitrovic 83’) Sunderland 1 (Jermaine Defoe 44’)
Top Six Standings
1 Leicester City – Played 31, Points 66
2 Tottenham Hotspur – Played 31 Points 61
3 Arsenal – Played 30 Points 55
4 Manchester City – Played 30 Points 51
5 West Ham United – Played 30 Points 50
6 Manchester United – Played 30 Points 50
Original source: Rashford gives United bragging rights