LONDON: Manchester United, after playing some of their poorest football of the season last Monday in the Cup against Arsenal, played some of their best to beat the week’s other north London rivals, Tottenham, 3-0 in the league.
A devastating spell of three goals in 25 minutes was climaxed by a decisive knockout blow from Wayne Rooney.
United’s captain had led his team out despite the latest controversy surrounding a boxing session in his kitchen with former team-mate Phil Bardsley. Rooney appeared to be knocked down in the ‘play fight’ in a video shot on February 22, the day after United’s 2-1 defeat by Swansea.
Both men come from boxing families and Rooney is a fan of the sport though footballers’ insurance policies insist they do not participate in ‘risk’ sports. United refused to comment on the video in the hope that the fuss would by United’s ability to administer a knockout footballing blow at Old Trafford.
United were missing Angel Di Maria against Spurs because of the suspension he incurred last Monday for compounding the yellow card for a dive by pulling the shirt of referee Michael Oliver in FA Cup defeat by Arsenal.
That may have been a blessing in disguise for manager Louis Van Gaal. Di Maria made a bright start after his British record arrival from Real Madrid last August but his form has dipped because of the assorted complications of injury, loss of form and the psychological effect of an attempted burglary which has forced him to move home.
Yet even Di Maria might have enjoyed himself against a Tottenham side who were sloppy in defence and contributed too generously to helping United regain their confidence and momentum.
Marouane Fellaini, so often a butt of United fans anger since his arrival from Everton at the start of last season, played a key role in United’s best 45 minutes of term. He scored the first goal on an assist from Michael Carrick then knocked down a corner for Carrick to score the second against the England man’s old club.
Spurs were badly exposed on the third goal. Nabil Benataleb gave the ball away to Rooney who was allowed a run at the Tottenham defence, accelerated past Eric Dier and shot past Lloris from 12m. Rooney, to celebrate, punched the air like a boxer.
At the top of the table Chelsea edged six points clear of Manchester City with one game in hand after a 1-1 home draw against Southampton though they would havbe preferred to win after the midweek exit from the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain.
Diego Costa opened the way by giving Chelsea the lead with a header before Dusan Tasic equalised from the spot after Nemanja Matic had fouled forward Sadio Mane. But Matic was perhaps lucky to escape a red card after an over-zxealous performance in midfield.
Southampton had to thank goalkeeper Fraser Forster for fine saves from Oscar, Eden Hazard and Loic Remy. However he was lucky in the very last minute when John Terry had an effort blocked on the goal-line when he volleyed the loose ball wide of a post.
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