MAN UNITED 1, TOTTENHAM 2
Manchester United’s recent revival came to a juddering halt following another damaging home defeat.
Spurs became the fourth team to leave Old Trafford with a Barclays Premier League victory as United failed to make further inroads into the deficit between them and the top teams.
Goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen ensured it was a miserable start to 2014 for United who are 11 points behind leaders Arsenal and perhaps more significant five adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool.
And after waiting 23 years for a win at Old Trafford, Spurs made it back-to-back victories as United remain in seventh place.
While United manager David Moyes was left perplexed as a run of six straight victories came to an end, opposite number Tim Sherwood’s honeymoon continued as he made it 10 points from a possible 12 since succeeding Andre Villas Boas.
Moyes thought his side was unlucky and Spurs were fortunate to finish with 11 players on the field.
He said: “It was frustrating because we played very well. We had enough chances to at least draw and perhaps win.
“We couldn’t get the final bit, the cross or finish. Though we lost, it doesn’t seem like a defeat because we played well.”
United’s manager believed his side ought to have been awarded a late penalty and was convinced Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris ought to have been dismissed.
He explained: “Ashley Young got the ball and the keeper followed through. It was reckless, late and in the penalty box.
“It was an incredible decision, one of the worst I have seen. It was stone wall and, if you don’t get that one, you won’t get a penalty all season.”
United made four changes from the side which won at Norwich City on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney returned after injury, Antonio Valencia was back after suspension while there were starting spots for Adnan Januzaj and Danny Welbeck.
Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young, Javier Hernandez and Shinji Kagawa were the quartet to miss out.
United made a bright start in which Danny Welbeck might have won an early penalty following a dodgy challenge by keeper Lloris who also luckily managed to deflect Chris Smalling’s shot for a corner.
Yet Spurs almost snatched a 14th minute lead when Aaron Lennon forced a fine save from David De Gea after being released by Roberto Soldado’s great through ball.
Nemanja Vidic headed narrowly wide, but it was Spurs who took the lead 11 minutes before the break when Adebayor towered over Chris Smalling to head home a right-wing cross from Christian Eriksen, his fourth goal in the last five matches.
And it might have got worse for United when Soldado slid in at the far post to meet Lennon’s cross which flew over the bar off his knee.
United continued to flounder in the second half, though they had a penalty appeal when Welbeck appeared to be caught by Vlad Chiriches.
Just after the hour came a double substitution as Smalling and Michael Carrick were replaced by Kagawa and Javier Hernandez.
Rather than lifting United, Spurs immediately made it 2-0 when Eriksen headed home Lennon’s cross which deflected off Vidic.
Spurs were still celebrating when United halved the deficit as Welbeck was released by Januzaj and found the net with the coolest of chips over the advancing Lloris for his fifth goal in as many games.
Suddenly the crowd came alive as Januzaj curled an exquisite shot just wide of the upright as United went in search of an equaliser.
Late on United had a second penalty appeal rejected by Howard Webb after substitute Young went down as keeper Lloris came hurtling from his line.
And in the five minutes of stoppage time, Vidic twice went close to equalising as he saw a shot scrambled off the line by Lennon while a header cleared the crossbar.