Manchester United produced arguably the best performance of Erik ten Hag’s short reign to overwhelm Tottenham in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Fred and Bruno Fernandes got the goals in the second half in a thoroughly deserved win that puts the Red Devils within one point of the top four.
Only the heroics of Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal kept the score down on a chastening night for Spurs’ dreams of competing for a first league title since 1961.
Antonio Conte’s men had got off to Tottenham’s best ever start to a Premier League season with just one defeat in 10 games.
However, the Italian’s conservative tactics have raised concerns despite the positive results and Conte was finally made to pay on a night when United clicked.
Ten Hag had bemoaned his side’s lack of killer instinct in scoring only once in home games against Omonia Nicosia and Newcastle over the past week.
With Cristiano Ronaldo again left on the bench, it looked like United may again fail to turn their fine approach play into goals as they had 19 shots on goal in the first 45 minutes without reward.
Antony was inches away from a fourth goal in five Premier League games as the Brazilian’s strike clipped the outside of the post.
Lloris then produced a hat-trick of brilliant stops in a matter of minutes to keep out Marcus Rashford’s low drive, Fernandes’ free-kick and Luke Shaw’s powerful volley.
The second period was only two minutes in when Fred’s deflected effort from the edge of the box finally beat the wrong-footed Lloris.
Victory would have taken Spurs to within one point of leaders Arsenal, but even falling behind could not jolt a response out of Conte’s men.
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were kept in check by United’s impressive centre-back pairing of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.
Even for Kane’s best sight of goal, Martinez got enough of a touch to deflect the England captain’s shot behind.
Fernandes had not scored at club level since August, but kept his head with a neat finish into the far corner to seal Tottenham’s fate 21 minutes from time.
The Portuguese produced an even cooler finish by rounding Lloris and rolling into an unguarded net moments later, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Rashford was also denied the goal his performance deserved by another incredible Lloris save low to his left.
Yet, an evening full of positives for the hosts was marginally overshadowed by the sight of Ronaldo trudging down the tunnel before the match had finished after Ten Hag refused to bring him on as a substitute.