Big-spending Manchester United were given a reality check by Tottenham Hotspur as the vibrant Lilywhites stunned the Red Devils 2-0 in their Premier League fixture at Wembley Stadium.
Jose Mourinho started new signing Alexis Sanchez for the first time in the league on Wednesday night, with the Chilean featuring along side Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku but it would be the hosts that raced into a 1-0 lead with barely 10 seconds played.
Jan Vertonghen booted the ball high up the pitch, Harry Kane headed it down into the path of Dele Alli and while the midfielder’s shot was blocked, the rebound fell kindly to Christian Eriksen and the Dane made no mistake from six yards out to blast Mauricio Pochettino’s men into the lead.
United were stung into action and almost equalised immediately, with Paul Pogba slipping in Jesse Lingard but Hugo Llloris was alert to the danger and made a vital block to preserve his side’s lead.
Spurs, however, were in a mood to do some damage to United’s title hopes and just before the half-hour mark would do just that with Kieran Trippier sending in a fizzing cross intended for Harry Kane. Phil Jones got to the cross before his compatriot, but the United defender inadvertently turned the ball into his own net, much to the dismay of his manager.
United would threaten intermittently, with Martial going close from a tight angle, but it was always Spurs who looked like they would score next.
Dele Alli went down inside the box from a robust Antonio Valencia challenge and while referee Andre Marriner waved away any appeals for a penalty, replays suggested on another day the decision could have gone Spurs’ way.
United began the second-half with urgency, with Sanchez attempting to head a corner across the face of goal only to be stopped by the dangling arm of Spurs winger Heung-Min Son.
Match official Andre Marriner had seen the incident but ruled the Korean was too close to the Chilean to react in time and waved play on.
Mourinho took off Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard in the 63rd minute, bringing on Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata in their stead but the Portuguese was forced into making a third substitution soon after as it became apparent that Fellaini could not carry on.
The gangly Belgian, who was making his comeback from a long-standing knee injury, cut a frustrated figure as Ander Herrera replaced him in the 70th minute.
On the pitch, things didn’t get much better for United as their vaunted forwards failed to click in the desired manner.
As league leaders Manchester City won their game against West Bromwich Albion on the night, the gap between the derby rivals is now a massive 15 points and the Red Devils will have to focus on finishing in the top-four rather than harbouring hopes of a title challenge.
For the likes of third-placed Liverpool are just three points behind, level with fourth-placed Chelsea and fourth-ranked Spurs are two points further back.
United have to dust themselves off and look to their next fixture, a home Premier League tie against Huddersfield Town on Saturday, while Spurs have a mammoth away clash with Liverpool on Sunday on the horizon.