A first half Henrikh Mkhitaryan goal was enough to ensure a win for Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
By Carlo Chikomba
The win sees United come to within three point off fifth-placed Spurs and six off Manchester City who occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot.
The Red Devils made a few changes to the team that beat Zorya Luhansk in the Europa league on Thursday with Phil Jones and Antony Martial returning to the fold and Mkhitaryan keeping his place in the starting line-up.
Tottenham centre-back Toby Alderweireld was handed his first start in eight weeks after having sustained a knee injury and he along with his defensive colleagues soon found themselves under pressure from the onset.
It took the hosts less than two minutes to split open the Spurs defence, Zlatan Ibrahimovic teeing up Paul Pogba for a left-footed shot that was repelled by his French compatriot Hugo Lloris. United were quick to assert dominance as Mkhitaryan saw his effort blocked by Jan Vertongen while Ander Herrera tested the Spurs number one with a dipping volley.
At the other end David De Gea dealt with a tricky free kick from Christian Eriksen but it was always United who looked more likely to open the scoring and in the 29th minute they duly did so. A misplaced pass from Harry Kane went straight to Herrera, whose accurate through pass split open the visitors centre-backs allowing Mkhitaryan to run through and dispatch a rising shot past the hapless Lloris.
With that shot Henrikh became the first Armenian to score in the Premier League and it was also his second consecutive goal after scoring again against Zorya in the Europa League. United kept up the pressure as the Spurs goalkeeper was called into action once again to save Ibrahimovic’s effort off Antony Martial’s cross.
While on the other end, Son Heung Min cut in from the right and unleashed a left-footed shot that produced a tipping save from De Gea but the hosts were pretty much in control come half time.
The early minutes of the second half produced a few nervous moments for Manchester United as the Spurs went on the offensive. De Gea palmed away a shot from Eriksen before Victor Wanyama somehow managed to miscue his header from just six yards off Eriksen’s free kick.
The world’s most expensive player Pogba took it upon himself to try and extend United’s slender lead. The French midfielder rattled the cross bar with a bending 25-yard free kick which left Lloris rooted to the spot before unleashing a stinging shot which was palmed away by the Spurs shot stopper after a clever one two with Herrera.
De Gea was called into action to claw away another Eriksen free-kick on the other end.
Unfortunately, United’s hero for the day Mkhitaryan had to be stretchered off in the 84th minute after turning his ankle in a late challenge by Danny Rose. Despite that set-back, the hosts held on to see the game out and claim a vital win over the Spurs.