Goals of contrasting simplicity from Nemanja Vidic and Nani gave United a crucial, hard-fought victory over Tottenham at Old Trafford.
Skipper Vidic flashed home a header from Nani's superb free-kick just after the half-hour mark, before the winger slotted in a bizarre clincher; tapping home after Heurelho Gomes had surrendered possession to take a free-kick which Mark Clattenburg and his officials had failed to award.
The Portuguese had clearly handled the ball as he appealed for an apparent penalty, but Clattenburg's decision not to stop play and Gomes' attempts to line up a set-piece married in bizarre circumstances. Nani looked to the referee to see the state of play, was encouraged to play on and slotted home a simple finish.
Old Trafford cannot have witnessed a goal of such absurdity often in its century, but fortunately Vidic's earlier goal should negate the majority of the inevitable controversy which will follow. The goal and its slapstick circumstances detracted from an otherwise compelling game between two fine sides.
In the continued absence of Wayne Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson once again paired Dimitar Berbatov with on-song Mexican newcomer Javier Hernandez upfront, against a Spurs backline deprived by injury of mainstays Ledley King and Michael Dawson. In their stead, William Gallas and Younes Kaboul paired in the heart of the visitors’ defence.
Pre-match talk had suggested that Harry Redknapp was contemplating resting in-form left-winger, Gareth Bale, ahead of his side’s vital Champions League encounter with Internazionale. The Welshman was indeed fielded, but Redknapp nevertheless sprung a surprise by starting Robbie Keane – as captain – ahead of Peter Crouch.