Marcus Rashford’s brace ruined Jose Mourinho’s Old Trafford return as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United ran out deserved victors against Tottenham.
Less than a year after being sacked as background backbiting compounded poor performances, Mourinho returned to the Old Trafford touchline at a time when pressure was increasing on his successor following the club’s worst start to a season since 1988.
The Portuguese received a warm reception at his old stomping ground but Solskjaer’s name filled the air on Wednesday night, when Rashford goals either side of a fine Dele Alli equaliser sealed United a much-needed 2-1 victory against Spurs.
The end of Mourinho’s three-game winning start to life at the Tottenham helm provided a timely shot in the arm for his former club, with a trip to reigning champions and bitter rivals Manchester City coming on Saturday evening.
Solskjaer’s name rung around Old Trafford at the end of a match that started with United on the front foot, with Rashford opening the scoring in the sixth minute after all too easily beating Paulo Gazzaniga.
The Tottenham goalkeeper produced a number of fine stops, including tipping a long-range effort from the 22-year-old onto the bar, as United dominated a first half they ended on level terms thanks to Alli’s beautiful flick and finish.
But a lack of cutting edge – something Mourinho often bemoaned during his United tenure – did not return to haunt the hosts, with Rashford scoring from the spot early in the second half following a clumsy challenge by Moussa Sissoko.
Solskjaer and Mourinho shared a warm embrace at full-time, with the latter surely having few arguments with the result given the way things panned out.
Spurs were behind within just six minutes as Davinson Sanchez flapped, with the Tottenham defender inadvertently backheeling into the path of Rashford under pressure from Jesse Lingard.
Showing no little skill and confidence, Rashford ran onto the ball and unleashed a low shot that beat Gazzaniga at his near post to send Old Trafford wild.
Mourinho was quickly on his feet encouraging his team and continued to back his players in the technical area throughout the first half, even after an awkward collision with Daniel James after Harry Winks fouled the rapid winger.
But whatever the Portuguese was saying had little impact, with United dominating and Rashford sending a dipping free-kick just wide before Gazzaniga stopped 18-year-old Mason Greenwood from close range.
It was a fine stop bettered in the 25th minute when Rashford took aim from 30 yards, with the Argentina goalkeeper doing superbly to tip that fizzing effort onto the crossbar.
Rashford was again denied and Lingard bent wide as United smelt blood – but the hosts’ all-too-familiar inability to stretch their lead offered Mourinho hope.
Having had precious little to do during the opening period, David De Gea did well to deny Serge Aurier’s volley with his feet when Spurs first mustered a shot on target in the 39th minute.
However, the United goalkeeper could do little when the ball looped high into the air and Alli met it with an expert clipped touch over his shoulder under pressure from Fred and Ashley Young before firing home an effort cleared by the video assistant referee.
It was a stunning effort that could have derailed United, only for Sissoko’s clumsiness within 90 seconds of the second half to put Spurs on the back foot once more.
The midfielder only managed to tread on Rashford’s foot when trying to tackle the forward, with referee Paul Tierney pointing to the spot. After a long wait, the England forward coolly sent the ball into the right-hand corner as Gazzaniga went the other way.
Son Heung-min and Harry Kane saw efforts blocked as Spurs looked for another equaliser, but the hosts were looking comfortable and playing with confidence.
Gazzaniga denied James but play was stretched and United were showing composure defensively as they looked to keep Spurs at bay.
Aurier was denied and De Gea got down to Alli during an end-to-end conclusion, with the Old Trafford faithful erupting at full-time after holding out for a key win.