TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (Son 40)
MANCHESTER UNITED 3 (Fred 57, Cavani 79, Greenwood 90+5)
ENGLAND’S PUBS reopened on Monday and it is a fair bet that some Manchester United fans raised a glass to Edinson Cavani after the Uruguayan’s exploits at both ends of the pitch ensured the Reds got revenge for their early season thrashing by Spurs and closed the gap on league-leaders Manchester City.
United are still 11 points behind their ‘noisy neighbours’ with a game in hand, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded it would take a “miracle” to catch them. But, he added: “Miracles can happen.”
Certainly United are still capable in theory of catching Pep Guardiola’s men, who lost to Leeds on Saturday, but even if the gap is too large, Solskjaer’s men are seven points clear of third-placed Leicester City. And while United are on course for runners-up spot, Tottenham’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League look doomed as they lie in seventh place, six points behind West Ham in fourth.
Few Tottenham fans will be toasting their team or Jose Mourinho, who could not resist a dig at his successor after Solskjaer criticised Heung Min Son for over-dramatising a slap in the face from Scott McTominay in the 34th minute. The controversial incident, in the build-up to what Cavani thought was his opening goal, was reviewed by VAR, and referee Chris Kavanagh changed his mind to rule it out after seeing replays on a pitchside monitor.
The fact that Son recovered fully to put Tottenham ahead four minutes later clearly grated with Solskjaer, who said: “We shouldn’t be conned. If my son stayed down for three minutes and needed 10 mates to help him up, he wouldn’t get any food.”
Mourinho’s response? “Son is very lucky that his father is a better person than Ole. It’s very sad. I am very disappointed in Ole’s comments.”
The exchange may have been a classic diversionary tactic from Mourinho, to take the attention away from another craven collapse after being ahead. United fully deserved Fred’s equaliser in the 57th minute and then took the lead through superb diving header from Cavani, who then prevented Spurs from equalising in the closing stages. Mason Greenwood’s goal in stoppage time ensured the scoreline reflected United’s superiority.
Once again Tottenham threw away a lead, after Son opened the scoring with a beautifully constructed goal. A number of passes led to Tanguy Ndombele fizzing the ball in towards Harry Kane, whose first time pass took out Victor Lindelof and put Lucas Moura in on goal. The Brazilian unselfishly squared the ball for Son to clip it first-time past Dean Henderson at his near post.
But United equalised 12 minutes into the second half. Hugo Lloris had already made a good save from McTominay and was then left exposed when Cavani shot from an angle. The French keeper could only parry the ball and Fred followed up to hit it high into the net. Lloris saved a long shot from Bruno Fernandes brilliantly at the base of the post, but he had no chance when Greenwood crossed to the far post for Cavani’s diving header, with the ball flying into the net like a bullet.
Spurs still had chances. Kane was denied by Henderson’s feet at the base of the post, Son went close and in the closing stages, Cavani intervened when a misdirected Pogba header was sailing into United’s net before the Uruguayan got his head to it and put it against a post and out to safety.
Deep into stoppage time, the ball was played to Greenwood on the right and the youngster took one touch before lashing a shot into the far corner past Lloris.
Mourinho also complained about an elbow by Pogba on Serge Aurier before admitting that United are “a very, very good team, but I am not going home disappointed with my players.”
Solskjaer is much happier with his own men, and in particular Cavani, whom he hopes to sign on a permanent contract in the summer. “We have had upfront and honest meetings. It’s no secret wee want to keep him. Imagine scoring a brilliant diving header like that in front of a full house at Old Trafford – there is no better feeling.”