Manchester United get the job done to vindicate Jose Mourinho and leave Tottenham's title credentials in question

Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Anthony Martial's late goal ensured the hosts clinched all three points in what was a largely dreary encounter at Old Trafford

Jose Mourinho explains his 'shh' sign after Spurs victory

Manchester United offer the most direct response to all the criticism of the last two league results, by winning a big-six game with the most direct goal possible. On 82 minutes of a largely scrappy match, David De Gea punted it up, Romelu Lukaku flicked it on, and Anthony Martial finished.

All so basic, and all so easy. A defence usually as resolute as Tottenham Hotspur’s should have dealt with it in a much better manner, but this time round they crumpled in their third big-six game of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino has still only won one of these matches from his time at the club, and it’s still difficult to get away from the fact they are so dependent on one player - the one who was absent here, Harry Kane.

That trend will now be the focus of this big-six clash, rather than Jose Mourinho’s capacity for killing off games – which his side just about did here, his tight game-plan ultimately paying off. The added vindication for the Portuguese was that it was one of his substitutes who won the game, in Martial.

He was brought on for Marcus Rashford, and the decision to take off the young star - who had been one of the few players energising this match - was booed. When the final whistle went, Mourinho so conspicuously put his fingers to his lips in a shushing gesture in that way he does, but that was more likely to all the criticism of the past two weeks.

Pochettino's men couldn't find the means to pull ahead in the Old Trafford encounter

To call this a masterclass would still be something of a stretch, though, given that this was a match characterised by mistakes rather than any kind of mastery of anything.

Spurs themselves will rue Dele Alli’s dismal miss just minutes before Martial’s goal, that moment of poor quality coming just after the game’s one moment of actual attacking quality. Christian Eriksen had picked a supreme pass to completely open the United defence, only for Alli to flick it wide rather than more easily head it in the other direction.

Lukaku seconds later hit the post with a header, so Pochettino couldn’t exactly complain about the goal going against the run of play, and Eriksen’s fine pass was really out of character for the rest of the game. He was one of many Spurs players making bad mistakes that they usually wouldn’t make, and Eriksen himself misplaced his first six balls of the game. That reflected a lack of assurance and nerviness from the side, and it’s inevitable that the absence of Kane will be pointed to, just as it was inevitable that it further set the tone for this match.

Lukaku enjoyed two clear-cut chances on goal but couldn't find the back of the net

United, despite the eventual win, weren’t faultless in this either. Having actually started brightly and looking like they wanted to react to all the criticism of the last two weeks with some proactive football, that lasted all of 10 minutes as they began to look to play on the counter again.

It led to the moment that was perhaps most symbolic of a scrappy match - and especially a scrappy first-half - when a poor Ben Davies cross saw Phil Jones clumsily barrel into David De Gea and the ball to spill, only for Moussa Sissoko to then blaze the ball over.

Mistakes all round, and the question was really about what mistake was going to settle the game.

For his part, and as he is now well versed in doing so, Mourinho did look to act on those mistakes - and was proactive here.

Tottenham's players react after the final whistle

He drastically changed his line-up, bringing off Henrikh Mlhitaryan - who had again been poor but did temporarily flash for essentially the length of the 54th minute in forcing two chances - and Rashford, and bringing on Martial.

It did cap a spell when United were the better side, and had gained more of a foothold. Spurs then played into his hands, with Eric Dier making a costly error and the entire defence making a costly step-up, to leave Martial through on goal. He hit his shot into the ground, but crucially into the net.

Old Trafford erupted, but there was no Spurs eruption in response. They had endured yet another poor performance at this great old stadium - really, Pochettino’s third in a row - to go with another poor big-six away game. It is really at this point something they are going to have to address if they are to properly challenge for the title, as is the loss of Kane.

Anthony Martial celebrates scoring the winning goal 

Mourinho meanwhile addressed his main issue. A point was made, to win all three in a big game.

And, to be fair, it was about more than just one big punt.

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