Release back to the beginning of the season, and especially the third game.
Manchester United hosted Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, after losing their first game of the season against Crystal Palace before beating Brighton thanks to an allotted penalty, bizarrely, after the full-time signal.
As for Spurs, they had overcome their own defeat against Everton against Everton by beating Southampton 5-2, inspired by the grandeur of Harry Kane and Son Heungmin.
When the match between the two sides started, United received a penalty in the opening minute. Bruno Fernandes converted to give the Red Devils the lead, but what followed was an afternoon of pure punishment from Jose Mourinho’s side.
Tanguy Ndombele and Son made it 2-1 for Spurs inside seven minutes before Anthony Martial was sent off for raising his hands in Erik Lamela’s face. After that, it was a football equivalent of a massacre, with Kane and Son getting a brace and Serge Aurier also came into action.
It was, and remains, the worst defeat of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign as Manchester United manager, but after that game, both teams have run away on completely different paths.
Spurs pressed for a finished top spot in the Premier League in November, and also crossed into the knockout stages of the Europa League. Now, however, they are in sixth place, three points behind the surprise package West Ham in fourth place.
United, meanwhile, are in second place, probably confident – exclusively of a monumental collapse – of qualifying for Champions League football next season.
United’s results have been much better since the Spurs defeat | CRISTINA QUICLER / Getty Images
Since this 6-1 defeat, Solskjaer’s side have lost only twice more in the Premier League and even though they crashed out of the Champions League, they are now with one foot in the Europa League semi-final – a tournament Mourinho’s men were humiliatingly dumped in 16 years.
When the two teams meet again this weekend, with their four main ambitions on the line, Solskjaer and Manchester United should take a leaf out of their opponent’s book – go to death.
Spurs appeared at Old Trafford against an injured Manchester United side and went full out to kill. They continued to press even when the victory was certain, registered 22 goal attempts for United’s five and retained 62% ball possession. Yes, the red card that Martial brought up helped, but they won even before it happened.
United arrive in north London on Sunday to face a Tottenham side who have lost two of their last five, while also blasting a lead against Newcastle last time to leave with just one point. The roles have reversed, and this time they are the wounded.
Solskjaer has a squad full of confidence and options and only lacks the injured Martial. Fernandes and Marcus Rashford have both reached the 20-goal mark for the season, while Mason Greenwood has scored two in his last three games. Paul Pogba’s return from injury has been positive and defensively they have kept nine clean sheets in their last 14 games in all competitions.
United have nothing to fear from entering the match and after finally overcoming their problems against the six major oppositions, by beating Manchester City in March, they should be brave once again and go to the jugular.
A win against Spurs would not only cement their place in the top four for next season, but would put a marker that United are now ready to go up against other top teams and back themselves to get to the top. This is a Tottenham team in disarray and if Solskjaer is not willing to go on the front foot in such a scenario, he will never do it.