Manchester United slumped to a second consecutive defeat on Monday to intensify the pressure on manager Jose Mourinho as Harry Kane and a Lucas Moura double moved Tottenham joint top of the Premier League with 3-0 win at Old Trafford.
United now trail Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea by six points and stand four adrift of champions Manchester City just three games into the new campaign.
The odds on Mourinho losing his job have been slashed in recent weeks as he has clashed with the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward over a lack of signings.
Mourinho’s anger at not being given the funds to boost his centre-back options was exacerbated by the poor showing of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof in a disastrous defensive showing at Brighton last weekend.
Both paid for that performance by being dropped as Mourinho made six changes in all, although Alexis Sanchez was still left on the bench.
After a week in which Mourinho’s ability to turn the tide of negativity at Old Trafford was severely questioned, the Portuguese at least summoned a response from his players for the opening 45 minutes.
United, though, were left to rue a series of missed chances by Romelu Lukaku before Spurs took control with two goals in two minutes just after the break.
Lukaku’s biggest chance came after 15 minutes when Danny Rose’s short passback put the Belgian clean through on goal, but, after rounding Hugo Lloris, Lukaku pulled his shot wide of the far post.
– Second-half Spurs surge –
Lloris was then equal to a tame left-footed effort by the United number nine before Lukaku headed wide his third opening of the half.
Tottenham hadn’t even scored in losing on their four previous trips to Old Trafford under Mauricio Pochettino.
Yet, the Argentine’s half-time words of wisdom made a huge difference as Spurs came out a different side after the break.
David de Gea had already denied Kane and Dele Alli had seen a goalbound effort deflected wide by the time Kane rose highest from Kieran Tripper’s corner to loop a header into the net.
Lloris maintained his place in the side and the captain’s armband despite being arrested for drink driving in the early hours of Friday.
And Pochettino’s faith in his skipper was rewarded when Lloris denied Lukaku again with a brilliant save to keep Spurs in front.
A minute later, they doubled their advantage when Christian Eriksen’s cross was swept home by Lucas.
Mourinho encroached onto the pitch to bellow encouragement to his charges. But the damage had already been done and the final reckoning could have been even more embarrassing for the hosts.
Lindelof, on for the injured Jones, was handed a reprieve when De Gea denied Alli after a short back pass by the Swede before Kane headed wide when unmarked from another corner. Lucas did rub salt into United wounds six minutes from time when he outpaced Lindelof before firing into the far corner.
Mourinho was goaded with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” by the travelling Tottenham fans. Woodward is not expected to bite the bullet quite so soon. But with United already facing an uphill battle just to make the top four nevermind challenge for the title, time is running out for Mourinho to get the 20-time champions of England back on track.