MAN UNITED 3, TOTTENHAM 0
Manchester United rolled back the years with a vintage display to beat Tottenham and strengthen their hold on fourth place in the Premier League.
The Reds’ first-half display, in which they scored all three of their goals, was breathtaking as Spurs could not live with their incisive attacking moves.
And they were rewarded as Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney all found the net in an opening period which rivalled anything in the glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson.
United played with a purpose seldom seen since Ferguson retired as they played with a more lively tempo and got the ball far quicker than in the early days under Louis van Gaal.
And it was a win which leaves Spurs with a mountainous task if they are to finish in the top four as they were well and truly dismantled at Old Trafford.
After United’s home defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup six days earlier, north London neighbours Spurs arrived as favourites.
Spurs had won on their last two visits to Old Trafford and were bidding to make club history by making it three victories in a row, but that never looked like materialising.
Manager Louis van Gaal said: “We have waited a long time for such a victory. The performance was very good against a very good side, and I am very pleased.
“We played like a team and were determined. It was nice after the defeat by Arsenal when we lost from yourself and to do this in the next game is massive important, especially against a competitor.”
The Dutchman was also aware Rooney had a team meeting with the players the night before the game.
He explained: “The players knew this game was massive and the captain had to do something to help the players, manager and the club, and I was pleased with that.”
Van Gaal would not be drawn into United being title contenders as they are eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
He said: “In the rat race we are now two points from second place, but first position is eight points which is too far away.
“Let’s take it step by step and the next game is at Liverpool where we don’t win very often.”
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettini had no complaints with the result describing their performance as “poor” adding he has to analyse and fix that.
United, who had failed to beat Spurs in their last five meetings, made three changes from the FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, all enforced as Angel Di Maria was ruled out through suspension while Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo were injured.
Into the side came Phil Jones in defence while the midfield saw recalls for Juan Mata and Carrick.
United made a nervy start in which Jones would have scored a second-minute own goal but for a spectacular sliding clearance by David De Gea.
And it was somewhat against the run of play that United stole ahead in the ninth minute when Carrick’s slide-rule pass released Fellaini who fired a low shot, his fifth goal of the campaign.
It got even better for United who doubled their advantage in the 19th minute when Carrick scored a rare goal.
Fellaini’s initial header from Mata’s corner was headed out by Nacer Chadli, but only as far as Carrick who header looped past Hugo Lloris from 10 yards for his first goal of the season.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino made a tactical change after half an hour as Andros Townsend was taken off and replaced by Mousa Dembele in a bid to strengthen the midfield.
But it was Spurs’ defence which was found wonting when Rooney, surrounded by four defenders, somehow managed to muscle his way clear before shooting low past Lloris for his 13th goal of the season.
And there was a hilarious goal celebration as Rooney re-enacted the knockout blow landed by former team mate as the pair boxed one another in Rooney’s kitchen where he was floored by a scything punch, an incident which was emblazoned over the front pages of the Sunday newspapers.
Van Gaal refused to answer questions on the impromptu boxing bout.
“It is a ridiculous world in which we live having to answer questions on this. I am not saying anything,” he declared.
The second half had an altogether different feel as United possessed what ought to be a match-winning advantage so their play lacked the urgency of the opening period.
Spurs were more of a threat without seriously looking breaching United’s back line, though Ryan Mason waltzed clear before firing wide.
There were only rare instances when United looked like adding to their score, Ander Herrara lashing one angled shot into the side netting and later seeing a long-range drive fizz just wide.
United handed a debut to 19-year-old Belgium born Brazilian Andreas Pereira with 13 minutes left. He had made just one previous appearance as a substitute in the Capital One Cup.
Harry Kane, the Premier League’s top scorer, almost pulled a consolation goal back for Spurs late on as his low shot almost crept under the body of De Gea.