Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela struck in six second-half minutes as Tottenham Hotspur swamped Manchester United 3-0 on Sunday to keep Premier League leaders Leicester City in sight.
A game delayed half an hour by United’s late arrival due to traffic congestion burst to life in the 70th minute with three rapid-fire goals that allowed Spurs to trim Leicester’s advantage back to seven points.
Leicester, 2-0 winners at Sunderland earlier in the day, remain overwhelming favourites for the title, but Spurs’ display showed that Mauricio Pochettino’s side will not give up without a fight.
Pochettino had not beaten United in six previous attempts, first with Southampton and then Tottenham, and Spurs had not scored against them in three games under him. Both trends were reversed in stunning fashion.
The result, Spurs’ first home league win over United in 15 years, had the additional effect of securing Leicester’s place in the Champions League and United’s hopes of joining the Foxes at Europe’s top table are fading.
Louis van Gaal’s side finished the weekend four points below fourth-place Manchester City in fifth place, raising the stakes ahead of Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham United.
United’s late arrival prevented them from warming up fully and there was ironic applause when they finally trotted out for the warm-up, five minutes after the scheduled kick-off time.
But with Leicester’s earlier win contributing to a flat atmosphere — United’s fans mockingly chanting “You nearly won the league!” — it was initially the hosts who looked like they had got ready in a hurry.
Tottenham, who recalled centre-back Jan Vertonghen after over two months out with a knee injury, had trouble getting out of their own half in the early stages, with right-back Timothy Fosu-Mensah seeing a shot deflected wide and Chris Smalling hoisting an effort onto the roof of the net.
Spurs’ first chance, a close-range effort from Harry Kane that David de Gea blocked, would not have stood anyway due to offside, but the momentary excitement seemed to enliven both crowd and team.
Young up front
Christian Eriksen curled narrowly wide from wide on the left and then made a gilt-edged chance for Lamela with a flighted left-foot cross, only for the stooping Argentine to head wide from six yards.
Moments later Kyle Walker turned Marcos Rojo inside-out on the Spurs right, but 18-year-old Fosu-Mensah, preferred to Matteo Darmian, slid across brilliantly to block the England right-back’s cross.
Van Gaal made a change at half-time, sending on Ashley Young for Marcus Rashford, but rather than move Anthony Martial up front, he tasked Young, who habitually plays on the wing or at full-back, to lead the line.
Young spent most of the second half as a spectator as Spurs began to impose themselves, with De Gea repelling a succession of potshots from Eriksen, Eric Dier and Kane.
But despite remaining out on the left, Martial began to exert an influence, teeing up Jesse Lingard to shoot wide and then cutting in from the left, leaving three opponents in his slipstream, and stinging Hugo Lloris’s palms with a crisp drive.
Back came Spurs, De Gea kicking Danny Rose’s deflected cross away and Kane seeing a cross headed clear by Fosu-Mensah, who hobbled off moments later to be replaced by Darmian.
Within seconds Darmian found himself ambling over to close down Eriksen, but the Dane cleverly took him out of the game with a deft left-foot cross and Alli steamed in at the back post to apply the finish.
Four minutes later Lamela’s free-kick from the left was met by centre-back Alderweireld, whose header found the bottom corner, and two minutes after that Rose crossed for Lamela to sweep in the third.
It took a finger-tip De Gea save to prevent Kane making it 4-0 with a header and Walker then hit the post after sliding in to meet Lamela’s drilled cross-shot from the left.