It had all the makings of a Christmas pantomime so beloved by British children. The grumpy pantomime villain, in the form of Mourinho, returning to Old Trafford, the place from which he had been evicted, to take on the much-loved, but currently slightly bumbling, good guy in the form of Solskjær.
There was even a sub-plot to keep the pantomime audience
happy. The villain was now recasting himself as a good guy, with nothing but
kind words to say about his former Manchester United employers.
He even stage-managed a media opportunity in which he
presented a gift to Solskjær in the tunnel before the game.
Was it all part of a dastardly plot to lull Solskjær into a false sense of security before the villain (now masquerading as “The Humble One”) pounced gleefully to claim Tottenham’s fourth successive victory and show his old bosses that he really is still “The Special One”?
Of course not. Pantomimes don’t work like that. The
good guy always wins in the end, to much cheering and applause from the
Rashford on a roll with revival
And so it was at a packed and pumping Old Trafford on Wednesday evening. Rashford continued his recent revival in form by scoring once in each half to secure United a well-deserved 2-1 home victory and ease the pressure on Solskjær.
After the match, the “villainous” Mourinho continued with his cunning plan to recast himself as everyone’s favourite football manager by admitting that United were the better team. Whatever next?
Going into Wednesday evening’s clash, United were enduring their worst start to a season since 1988 and Solskjær, despite his calm demeanour and hero status at Old Trafford, must have been feeling the pressure.
But as they have already done a few times this season,
his team raised their game against quality opposition – think of the early
season 4-0 thumping of Chelsea and October’s 1-1 draw against high-flying
Man United dominate with “Old Trafford faithful” Rashford
dominated the first half and Rashford was outstanding and a threat to the Spurs
goal throughout. Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga had to tip one zinging shot from
Rashford against the bar, but he could only partially parry a sixth-minute shot
from the England striker which went into the net off the near post.
For United, Jesse Lingard, Daniel James and young Mason Greenwood all ensured that Gazzaniga had a busy night in the Tottenham goal.
Spurs midfielder Delli Alli, who is enjoying something
of a revival under Mourinho, scored a lovely individual goal in the 39th
minute to level the score at 1-1.
Early in the second half, Rashford restored United’s
lead with a penalty after he was fouled by Sissoko. The Old Trafford faithful
must have been nervous before the kick, as the Manchester side have missed more
penalties than they’ve scored of late. But Rashford didn’t let them down.
Manchester City derby next on the cards
rest of the second half was a tighter affair than the first, but United always
looked good value for their victory and will have renewed confidence going into
this Saturday’s local derby away to Manchester City.
After the match, Alli said he believed that “arrogance” and “overconfidence” had cost Spurs the match. Mourinho agreed and observed that, overall, United “deserved it”.
Solskjær praised Rashford’s performance, particularly his maturity and composure.
“It’s like he was back on the playground or in the back garden,” he said.
The win moves United up to sixth in the EPL. Spurs are
one point behind in eighth position.