5 things we learned as Manchester United beat Tottenham Hotspur

By Sam McGuire, Football Whispers

This match lived up to the billing. Tottenham Hotspur, looking to climb up to second in the Premier League, played host to Manchester United with the Red Devils knowing a win would take them level on points with Arsenal in fifth place. 

The home side had the better of the opening exchanges with Heung-Min Son's movement stretching the United defence. Harry Winks also scored the opener after a neat exchange by Spurs in the final third but his effort was dragged away from goal. The Spurs No.8 then tried from distance but failed to connect properly but the signs were encouraging. 

It appeared as though the two teams would go into the break all square but United pounced just before the whistle. Jesse Lingard pounced upon Kieran Trippier's wayward pass and found Paul Pogba. The United No.6 got the ball out from under his feet and played an inch-perfect pass into Marcus Rashford's path and the forward fired home across the face of Hugo Lloris. 

Spurs came out fired up in the second half and forced David de Gea into three early saves. The home side huffed and puffed but couldn't find a way past the United keeper. 

Here are five things we learnt as Ole Gunnar Solskjær picked up his first win against a top-six side. 

More than a new manager bounce

United’s remarkable run under Solskjær hasn’t been getting the credit it deserves due to the standard of opposition the Red Devils have come up against. Before today, the four matches in the Premier League had come against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table while the FA Cup draw gave them a favorable tie against Championship side Reading.

Some believed this was just the new manager bounce on show. With United’s superior players, filled with confidence, just coming up trumps. However, the Norweigan showed it’s much more than that.

The away side played with a clear gameplan at Wembley with Solskjær wanting his team to soak up the pressure before hitting Spurs on the break. He even tweaked the system, moving from a 4-2-3-1 shape to more of a diamond to match up with the hosts. It worked with both Rashford and Anthony Martial causing Toby Alderwereld and Jan Verongthen all kinds of problems due to their blistering pace and intelligent movement.

Pogba is delivering

What a difference a month makes. On Sunday 16th December, Pogba sat out of Manchester United's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. José Mourinho then left the club and Solskjær restored the World Cup winner to his starting XI. 

The response from the former Juventus man has been exceptional. He's chipped in with four goals in five matches and his assist for Rashford's opener was his fourth in the same period making it eight goal involvements since Solskjær's appointment. 

He was at his rampaging best for the away side and he appears to be enjoying this free role he's been given under the interim United boss. Everything good about this side comes through him and he's looking like the player 

Rashford looks the part in attack

Another player who looks reborn under Solskjær. The 21-year-old has been tasked with leading the line for United and he doesn't look overawed by the responsibility. The time on the wing under Mourinho helped, he was given a lot of exposure to first-team minutes, but now he's ready to be the main man.

The goal today was his fourth in five matches. The fact it was against a team challenging for the title and famed for their defensive resilience shows he's now developed that ruthless streak he may have lacked last season. He wasn't starved of service but chances for the Red Devils were at a premium.

He made his count. 

Spurs look strong even in defeat 

Pochettino's men may have suffered their sixth defeat of the season but they looked strong despite this. The home team were the better side in the first half, slightly, but after the break, with the game to chase, they really stepped it up. 

They peppered the United goal and were it not for the exploits of de Gea between the sticks for the Red Devils the this wouldn't been a comfortable victory for those in white. All it was, was a bad day in front of goal and one moment of magic from the visitors.

Such dominance, 21 shots to 11, usually results in all three points. If the game was played again then you'd have to assume Harry Kane and team-mates would find the back of the net on at least one occasion. 

De Gea proves his worth...again

The Spanish shot-stopper was in inspired form making 11 saves, more than any other goalkeeper in the league this season, as Spurs bombarded him looking for an equalizer. You could make a best of compilation of the saves he made at Wembley as he fully utilized all of his limbs to ensure the clean sheet. 

From lunging saves for the camera to sticking a leg out at the last minute to repel an effort, this was a de Gea masterclass and why, for so many years, he's been considered by the masses to be the best in the world. Solskjær got his tactics spot on in the first half but without his No.1 the interim United boss would have suffered his first defeat at the helm. 

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