Man United’s fabulous second half display the difference in a controversial Premier League outing against Spurs.
Having started the season so brightly, Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham side had been going through a tough spell.
With many fans unhappy with performances, and a shock exit from the Europa League, the Portuguese manager and his squad needed positive results in the league, for any chance of Champions League football.
After conceding a late equaliser in the draw against Newcastle United last week, Mourinho faced his old club Manchester United, who sat comfortably in second place.
The last match-up between these two sides took place at the start of the season, and Spurs dominated.
Winning the game 6-1, at Old Trafford.
However this fixture looked to have a completely different outcome.
The home side lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, and Mourinho opted for a more experienced defence to the Newcastle game, with Serge Aurier and Eric Dier replacing Japhet Tanganga and Davinson Sanchez.
Heung-Min Son also returned to the starting line-up following his injury, which meant that Carlos Vinicius dropped to the bench.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also made three changes to his side, who played away to Granada in midweek in the Europa League.
Following their success in Spain, Fred, Cavani and Dean Henderson all returned to the starting XI, with Mason Greenwood, Daniel James and David de Gea being replaced.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 11, 2021
🚨 𝗧𝗘𝗔𝗠 𝗡𝗘𝗪𝗦 🚨
Here's how Ole's Reds line up to take on Tottenham! 👊
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 11, 2021
As the game got underway, both sides fought for early possession and Spurs had the earliest of opportunity.
A few corners in the first 10 minutes, which did not come to anything.
The first real opportunity came quarter of an hour into the first half.
Paul Pogba rose above Serge Aurier and nodded a ball down to Rashford who teed up Edinson Cavani – but Eric Dier was quick to put his body on the line and blocked the shot well.
Both teams held the ball in a scrappy first half an hour which saw Scott McTominay receive the games first yellow card.
With ten minutes to go before half time, United sprung into life.
McTominay fought off pressure from Heung-Min Son in the build-up before Pogba slipped in a lovely pass to Cavani who slotted the ball through Hugo Lloris’ legs.
The Red Devils thought they were ahead.
VAR and the officials had other ideas.
Referee Chris Kavanagh was suggested to review the VAR monitor for a flick in the face of Son from McTominay in the build-up to the goal.
After reviewing the footage momentarily, Kavanagh awarded a foul to Spurs and disallowed the goal.
Tottenham had gotten lucky, and the United players were outraged.
To add insult to injury, the home side’s next counterattack resulted in a goal.
Harry Kane caught the defence by surprise as he played in Lucas Moura, who unselfishly passed the ball across the goal for Heung-Min Son, who tapped into a virtually open net.
Late first half controversy saw Mourinho’s men go into the break happiest, with a one goal advantage.
𝗛𝗔𝗟𝗙-𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗘 ⏱️ #Sonny's cool finish hands us a narrow lead at the break.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 11, 2021
The second half began and Man United were quick to get a foothold on the game, turning their frustration into opportunities.
Lloris was forced into making several saves early on into the half, but on the 57th minute mark United equalised, through an unlikely source.
A splendid passage of play on the edge of the area saw Edinson Cavani in space and Fred played him in.
His left-footed effort was close to Lloris who had to palm it away, but it could only find a red shirt.
Brazilian midfielder Fred, followed up the shot from Cavani and rebounded it into an empty net, turning the game on its head.
This goal gave Spurs a second wind for a while, and Dean Henderson pulled off some fantastic near-post saves with his feet.
With just over ten minutes left to play, the North London club were hit with their second blow.
Substitute Mason Greenwood made an immediate impact and whipped a ball into the box for the head of Edinson Cavani – who had caused Rodon and Dier problems all game.
The Uruguayan international dived for the ball and headed into the bottom-right corner, giving goalkeeper Lloris no chance.
It looked to be another loss for the home side from winning positions.
Although Tottenham did come close from a corner, which was diverted onto the post by Cavani, Manchester United had an exceptional second half.
And in the dying embers of the game, Mason Greenwood made it 3-1.
After beating Sergio Reguilon with a bit of skill, the 19-year-old found himself one-on-one with Captain Hugo Lloris, and he blasted it towards the near-post from six yards out.
The game ended 3-1, with the Manchester side taking home all three points.
Tottenham Hotspur now face an uphill battle with their pursuit for Champions League football looking less likely each week.
United face Granada at Old Trafford in their next game, as they look to progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League.
And Spurs will take the trip to Goodison Park, as they face Everton.
The last match-up between the two sides ended in a nine-goal thriller in the FA Cup.
Match Report by Nathan Salmon