Kelechi Iheanacho scored a superb hat-trick as Leicester City maintained their push for a top-four finish with a commanding Premier League victory over Sheffield United, in the Blades’ first game since the departure of manager Chris Wilder.

Having been appointed interim manager until the end of the season on Saturday, Under-23s boss Paul Heckingbottom took charge of bottom club United following Wilder’s departure by “mutual consent” after almost five years in charge.

But Leicester was far superior at King Power Stadium on Sunday, where Iheanacho continued his fine goalscoring form as the Foxes ran riot in the second half.

Iheanacho scored for a third successive Premier League game for the first time as he met Jamie Vardy’s cut-back to break the deadlock shortly before the interval.

Ayoze Perez had come closest to an early opener with a flicked header that Aaron Ramsdale diverted onto the post, but the Spaniard got the goal his performance deserved with a fine finish into the bottom corner after 64 minutes.

Iheanacho got his second from Vardy’s excellent pass five minutes later, before the Nigeria forward’s powerful strike sealed his treble.

Vardy thought he had ended a six-game goal drought with his shot 10 minutes from time, but Blades defender Ethan Ampadu made the decisive touch.

For the first time since a 1-0 defeat by Bolton Wanderers on the opening day of the 2016-17 League One campaign, Sheffield United took to the field without Wilder as manager.

Tasked with lifting the players for their final 10 Premier League games with relegation to the Championship looming, Heckingbottom was only able to link up with his players on Sunday due to Covid-19 protocols.

But the former Barnsley, Leeds United and Hibernian boss could not have been further from inspiring his side to a shock victory in a tough opening assignment against Leicester.

United failed to register a single attempt at goal in a one-sided first-half but they at least had Ramsdale to thank for not finding themselves further behind before the interval.

Chris Basham headed Vardy’s shot off the line as the Blades offered resistance early in the second half, but Heckingbottom’s side was torn apart as they shipped four goals in the space of 16 desperate minutes.

Having never lost by more than a three-goal margin under Wilder, United fell limply to their heaviest defeat since September 2008, bringing to a close a week that few could have envisaged less than one year on from the club’s remarkable ninth-placed finish on their top-flight return.

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