MAN UTD 2, TOTTENHAM 1
There was no happy return to Old Trafford for Jose Mourinho as Manchester United inflicted his first defeat as Tottenham manager.
Mourinho’s run of three straight victories came to an abrupt end as United secured a victory which lifts the Reds to sixth place and ease pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Two goals from Marcus Rashford – that’s nine in his last 10 games for United – proved decisive in what was arguably their best performance of the season.Embed from Getty Images
Solskjaer praised his side saying: “For the first 40 minutes we played as well as we have done.
“What pleased me was the reaction after they scored. They trusted themselves and we deserved to win.
“The players enjoyed themselves and to be honest we have not been good enough breaking down teams when we have had 70 per cent possession.
“You are always happy when you win. The boys are learning and improving all the time but tonight we were fantastic for long, long spells
“The three points are massive for us. We’ve had too many draws this season and given too many points away from winning positions. It’s a great lesson the last two games and we came back in a great manner.
“We’ve started the rebuilding. We’ve made decisions that we have had to and we’re looking to build this club to be better again and I cannot think short-term when I’m trying to do that.
“When we turn the corner and win three or four games on the run, they will get that Manchester United feeling again.”
Solskjaer described Rashford’s performance as the best since he became manager.
“He was mature, strong against good Premier League players. His penalty was calm and composed and his first goal, we know he’s got those strikes in him and he had three or four chances,” he explained.
Mourinho praised United saying they deserved their victory.
He said: “For 30 minutes they (United) were not just better, but much better than is in intensity, aggression, winning first, second and 50/50 balls.
“We were lucky, but in the last 15 minutes we were us and United were in trouble. We finished the first half with a good feeling of a positive result.
“In the second half, with the adjustments we made, I felt we would win it and their second goal in the first minute was hard and not easy to process.
“We got the ball in the final third but it didn’t happen and they deserved to win as they had more emotion than us. (Scott) McTominay dominated.
“We have ourselves to blame and United will be happy with the points.”
United made four changes from the side which drew at home to Aston Villa on Sunday.
The fit-again Scott McTominay returned in midfield while there were recalls for Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood.
The players to lose out were the injured Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira and Brandon Williams.
There was a warm embrace between Mourinho and successor Solskjaer before kick-off.
United had a special one, though, as Rashford put them ahead in the sixth minute.
Fred and Lingard linked on the left and set up Rashford whose angled shot beat keeper Paulo Gazzaniga at the near post, though the ball went in off the upright or his 11th of the season.
Harry Winks was booked for a foul on Daniel James as the United winger careered head first into Mourinho’s leg as the manager was left limping and the player needing lengthy treatment.
Rashford almost made it 2-0 when his free kick whistled past the upright. It was awarded when Fred was fouled by Moussa Sissoko.
Greenwood then went close as Gazzaniga did well to keep out a fierce shot with his legs.
Rashford tried his luck from 30 yards as his drive was turned onto the crossbar by Gazzaniga as United could easily have been four goals in the opening 25 minutes.
Not long after and Rashford, who was unplayable, was denied again by Spurs’ keeper and Lingard also fired narrowly wide.
Spurs equalised six minutes before the break with their first chance of the game and completely against the run of play.
Serge Aurier’s initial angled shot was kept out by the legs of David De Gea.
United failed to clear the danger and Alli produced a delightful touch before half volleying past De Gea, again from a narrow angle.
There was an agonising wait for both sides while there was a VAR check to determine whether Alli controlled the ball with his arm, but Michael Oliver, on duty at Stockley Park, gave the goal after lengthy deliberations.
United regained the momentum when they were awarded a penalty barely 60 seconds after the restart following a trip by Sissoko on Rashford who calmly sent Gazzaniga the wrong way from the spot.
Rashford showed ice-cool nerves as there was another lengthy wait for a VAR check as he banished the penalty blues as United had missed four out of six previous penalties in the Premier League this season.
Spurs came battling back again as a goalbound shot from Son Heung-min was blocked by Fred.
United weathered a short onslaught and responded as Lingard set up James who brought a decent save from Gazzaniga.
Solskjaer made his first change with 10 minutes left when Greenwood made way for Pereira soon to be followed by Luke Shaw coming on for Lingard as he adopted a cautious approach to safeguard the lead.
There was excitement in stoppage time when Tanguy Ndombele and Alli forced saves from De Gea as Spurs pursued a leveller.
Sandwiched in-between Rashford had a chance on the counter to seal victory but delayed too long.