Ole Gunnar Solskjaer passed his first real test as Manchester United caretaker manager as his side beat high-flying Tottenham 1-0 at Wembley on Sunday, with David de Gea playing a huge part.
Up against Mauricio Pochettino, the favourite to replace Jose Mourinho on a full-time basis at Old Trafford, Solskjaer's team played vibrant football and just about did enough in a match of many chances, with De Gea's display just as important as Marcus Rashford's third goal in as many games.
United were a particular danger on the counter and it was no surprise to see them ultimately go ahead at the end of such of a move, with Rashford finishing after Paul Pogba's excellent pass.
An open second half saw both teams create a raft of chances, but Hugo Lloris and the exceptional De Gea came out on top, with United moving level on 41 points with fifth-placed Arsenal as a result.
After a bright Spurs opening, United looked a threat on the break and went close twice before the 20th minute – Jesse Lingard firing wide of the top-right corner from 12 yards, before Anthony Martial tested Lloris from a tight angle.
Spurs lost Moussa Sissoko to a suspected groin injury after 43 minutes, and United broke the deadlock a few moments later – Pogba's exquisite long ball releasing Rashford, who found the bottom-left corner from 18 yards.
Pochettino's side looked re-energised at the start of the second half, with De Gea making crucial saves from Kane and Dele Alli within five minutes of the restart.
Still United threatened, however, with Pogba seeing a close-range effort tipped over by Lloris, before his controlled effort just inside the box in the 62nd minute forced a smart stop from the France goalkeeper.
De Gea was the star, though, producing a string of saves to keep Kane, Alli and Toby Alderweireld at bay and ensuring Solskjaer equalled Matt Busby's record of winning his first five league games in charge of United.
What does it mean? United continue to soar
United have real momentum and their bid to claim a Champions League place is gathering pace. For Spurs, however, it was another blow to their title hopes. They are now nine points behind Liverpool and it would take a major collapse from the Merseysiders - as well as Manchester City - for Pochettino's men to triumph.
De Gea shows his worth
It can be argued that, although he was impressive, none of the saves De Gea had to make on Sunday were particularly difficult. That may be the case, yet his commanding aura surely had something to do with the Spurs attackers failing to find the mark. At the other end Lloris was good, but failed to keep Rashford's strike out despite getting a hand to it, and that proved to be the difference.
Kane fluffs his lines
While England star Kane was hardly terrible, in a game of this magnitude Spurs and Pochettino would have expected him to be reliable in front of goal, yet De Gea came out on top in their duel.
Key Opta facts
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has equalled Matt Busby’s all-time record of winning his first five league games in charge of Manchester United.
- Tottenham have lost consecutive home Premier League games for the first time since May 2015.
- Tottenham have lost four home league games this season – double the amount they’d lost at home in their previous two Premier League campaigns combined (2).
- Manchester United have kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League – they’d only kept two in their first 20 league matches this season.
- Man Utd’s Marcus Rashford has scored in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in his career.
- Paul Pogba has been directly involved in 53% of Man Utd’s 15 Premier League goals since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge (4 goals, 4 assists).
- Tottenham’s Harry Kane had seven shots in this match – he last had more without finding the net in a Premier League game in January 2018 (8 vs Man Utd).
Spurs make the short trip to Fulham next Sunday, while United host Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.