A scrappy late winner from French forward Anthony Martial was just about enough to give Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils a first win in three over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
In a game of agonising missed chances mostly for the hosts, it would take 81 minutes for them to find the decisive goal, delivering back to back defeats to Mauricio Pochettino’s men in Cup and League for the first time since November 2016.
Victory for United creates some breathing space between the two sides, who entered the clash with only goal difference separating them, as they regain second place outright, but are still five points off Manchester City’s pace.
Meanwhile, The Lilywhites fall back down to third position with London Rivals Chelsea breathing down their necks, just a point back.
From the start in Manchester, Jose Mourinho opted for eight changes from Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup win in Wales over Swansea City.
In goal, David De Gea came back in for Sergio Romero, whilst at the back, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones replaced Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe, with Antonio Valencia, Nemanja Matic, and Ashley Young replacing Matteo Darmian, Scott McTominay, and Daley Blind.
There were two switches up-front as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romelu Lukaku took the places of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial.
Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino could only be seen making five alterations to his team from the 2-3 Wembley defeat to West Ham United in midweek.
Michel Vorm, Juan Foyth, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose and Fernando Llorente all made way as Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Serge Aurier, Christian Eriksen and Harry Winks came in, there was no star striker Harry Kane for Spurs as he remained sidelined with injury.
On a rainy day in the North East, the hosts would be the team that made the brighter start as Marcus Rashford went close from a long-range free-kick, just days before his 20th birthday.
But, the away side fought back with a golden opportunity to seize the advantage, with a rare mistake from De Gea lead to Alli teeing the ball up for Moussa Sissoko, however, his wayward effort would bring a chorus of laughter from the home supporters.
It was then the chance of Lloris to make a near catastrophic error early in the second period as a last-ditch challenge from Ben Davies stopped Rashford converting after the Frenchman spilled from a tame Mkhitaryan effort.
The Armenian, creating most of United’s chances, came inches from finding Lukaku for a tap-in just moments later, before his corner led to a scintillating strike from Valencia, that flashed just millimetres over the bar.
£75 million Belgian forward Lukaku had been quiet up until midway through the second period when he burst through and unleashed an effort, but Lloris saved and the home side still couldn’t edge in front.
For all the hosts’ dominance, the away side would have time to squander a superb chance to win the game before the death, as playmaker Christian Eriksen lifted in a delightful ball to Alli, only to see his weak shot fly wide.
Lukaku would then agonisingly strike the post and just when United thought they might never find a winner, the Belgium International rose with a wondrous flick to play substitute Martial clean through.
The French International’s strike would be far from clean but that was all that was needed to beat Lloris as the ball went tumbling into the far corner and the roof came off Old Trafford.
Enormous pressure has now been heaped on Pochettino and somewhat relieved for Mourinho, with a wasteful United managing to scrape the three points in the end.
Next up for The Red Devils will be a massive seven days, as Benfica are the visitors to Manchester in The Champions League on Tuesday, before a trip to Stamford Bridge next Sunday.
Meanwhile, The Lilywhites welcome Real Madrid to Wembley on Tuesday and Crystal Palace on Sunday, in what is a week of similar magnitude for the North London club.