Manchester United eased the pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford sealed a comprehensive 3-0 win at Tottenham on Saturday Night Football.
Ronaldo produced an inspired performance, volleying in United’s opener late in the first half, before laying on a second for Cavani midway through the second with an equally exquisite assist as Solskjaer’s side took their first step to recovery after Sunday’s 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool.
Solskjaer arrived in north London with his tenure hanging by a thread but ensured he lived to fight another day as his team selection and tactics – chiefly to switch to a back five, and partner Ronaldo and Cavani in attack – won the day and ended a four-game winless run in the Premier League to lift United up to fifth in table.
By contrast, the pressure on Solskjaer seemed to transfer to his counterpart Nuno Espirito Santo, who bore the wrath of the home supporters and was subjected to boos throughout as Spurs’ challenge barely got off the ground and then evaporated when substitute Rashford slotted a late third for the visitors.
Ronaldo stars to rescue Ole from the brink
Solskjaer switched to a back five at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and United made an assured start, restricting Spurs to an early Heung-min Son shot, which deflected harmlessly wide of the target.
But cracks began to appear as Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, two players as culpable as any for the Liverpool collapse, picked up bookings in quick succession, before Spurs fashioned their first clear-cut chance.
- Ben Davies and Giovani Lo Celso returned as Tottenham made two changes from Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham.
- Raphael Varane and Edinson Cavani returned as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer switched to a five-man defence after Man Utd’s 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Oliver Skipp and Lucas Moura combined to send a delicate ball over the United defence which Son plucked brilliantly out of the air, but the South Korean blazed over at the near post.
United went straight up the other end and nearly produced the perfect response, with Edinson Cavani steering a header inches wide from Bruno Fernandes’ pin-point cross.
Spurs had the ball in the United net on 28 minutes, only for Romero’s bundled back-post effort to be correctly ruled out for offside, before Fred stung the palms of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a swerving long-range drive soon after.
The breakthrough came for the visitors six minutes before the break, with Fernandes sending another inch-perfect ball over the Spurs defence for Ronaldo, who volleyed emphatically into the far corner to give United a deserved half-time lead.
Spurs should have levelled things up within three minutes of the restart, but Son curled wide of the target after Lucas Moura had intercepted a loose pass out from the back from David de Gea.
Seconds later, United thought they had doubled their advantage, but Ronaldo was adjudged to have strayed offside before his unerring finish into the roof of Lloris’ net.
It marked the beginning of Spurs’ decline, with Nuno the subject of boos from the home crowd when he replaced the lively Lucas Moura with Steven Bergwijn, and again when United doubled their lead.
Skipp was dispossessed by Fernandes in midfield, the ball was fed into Ronaldo who, having lost his balance, somehow managed to thread Cavani through on goal, and the Uruguayan clipped a delicate finish over the on-rushing Lloris.
Tottenham failed to muster any kind of response and were put out of their misery when substitutes Nemanja Matic and Rashford combined and the England international’s composed finish put the icing on the cake on an evening where Solskjaer’s United showed their steel.
Tottenham host Vitesse in the Europa Conference League on Thursday at 8pm before travelling to Everton in the Premier League on Sunday at 2pm.
Manchester United visit Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday at 8pm before hosting Manchester City on Saturday at 12.30pm – live on Sky Sports Premier League.