Premier League - Young double helps United win at Spurs
Manchester United moved back to within two points of the top of the Premier League table with a 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Right at the end of a first-half in which Tottenham controlled the possession and set the agenda, Wayne Rooney headed United in front.
Ashley Young then settled the match with a well-taken brace, scoring his first with an acrobatic volley before curling an unbeatable finish into the top corner for his second and United's third.
Substitute Jermain Defoe grabbed a late goal back in the closing stages, but it will be of scant consolation for Spurs as they now ponder the automatic Champions League spot they have held on to for so much of the season being jeopardised.
The win brings United back to within two points of leaders Manchester City, while the gap between third-placed Tottenham and fourth-placed Arsenal is now down to just four points.
Spurs were missing star players Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart through injury, while fellow midfielder Scott Parker was suspended. Despite those key losses, the home side dominated proceedings almost from the off as United, led by an imperious Rio Ferdinand, seemed happy to contain their hosts.
However, it was not until the 19th minute that the home side had their first clear chance. David de Gea's poor clearance was headed forward by Sandro to Emmanuel Adebayor, who drove for goal and had his low shot bound for the far corner saved by the Spanish keeper.
Spurs had the ball in the back of the net after Aaron Lennon skipped past Phil Jones on the counter-attack. The winger pulled the ball back to Louis Saha, whose shot struck Adebayor on the line before bouncing off De Gea and over the line. However, referee Martin Atkinson had already blown his whistle for handball against Adebayor.
Spurs were made to rue that debatable decision when, right on the stroke of half-time, they went behind.
At a corner, Kyle Walker took his eye off Rooney at just the wrong moment allowing the forward, returning to the United side after missing two games through illness, to glance a header past Brad Friedel. The goal was his 18th in the league this season, and his seventh in his last eight games against Spurs.
The second half followed much the same theme as the first. Jake Livermore, still awaiting his first Tottenham goal, forced a low save from De Gea with his shot from the edge of the box. As the hour mark approached, Benoit Assou-Ekotto bent a dipping free-kick over the wall only to see it hit the top of the crossbar.
Moments later Spurs were 2-0 down as they were once again caught napping at a set piece. A quick United throw-in came to Nani, and the Portuguese forward hit a low ball across from the byline. Walker's attempted clearance only looped the ball into the air and Young was underneath it at the far post to dispatch an agile volley right into the far bottom corner.
Even at 2-0 down, Spurs may have still felt confident of getting a result, such was the nature of their performance and that of United's two goals.
However, Young made sure the game was beyond the home side nine minutes later when he was allowed to collect the ball from Patrice Evra and turn for goal. From 25 yards out, Young curled a delightful curling shot that swerved out of Friedel's reach before hitting the top corner. It was the first time Young had scored in a Premier League game since the 8-2 win over Arsenal back in August, a match in which he also got a brace.
In a final gesture Spurs manager Harry Redknapp sent on Defoe and Niko Kranjcar, and the former took advantage of United switching off three minutes from time to score his ninth league goal of the season with a fizzing strike from 20 yards.
However, it was not enough to spark any vain hopes that Spurs could engineer a turnaround to claim a point, and the most recent win for the Londoners over United remains a 3-1 victory back in 2001.