United emphatically cleared a major hurdle in the race for the Barclays Premier League title, posting a priceless victory over Tottenham at White Hart Lane to move within two points of the top of the table.
Wayne Rooney's header in first-half injury-time followed a half of dominance for the hosts, while Ashley Young's brace of brilliant finishes added an almost surreal layer of gloss to the scoreline for Sir Alex Ferguson's champions.
Tottenham were dealt a disservice by the full-time deficit, having bossed matters for the first hour of the game, but found themselves thwarted by a dogged display of resilience from David De Gea and his excellent defence.
Harry Redknapp will also point to a moment of controversy in the first period when Emmanuel Adebayor had a goal contentiously ruled out for handball, but his side were gradually worn down by United's clinical finishing and improved passing in the second half, and had only Jermain Defoe's late consolation goal to show for their considerable efforts.
The Reds welcomed back Rooney after a throat infection, but were without Chris Smalling, the victim of a head injury during England's midweek defeat to Holland. The hosts, meanwhile, were bereft of Gareth Bale (virus), Rafael van der Vaart (ankle) and Scott Parker, who served a one-match ban after picking up a pair of bookings in last weekend's defeat at Arsenal.
Nevertheless, both sides lined up with attacking formations, each spearheaded by two strikers. In the opening exchanges, each of the quartet chanced their arm in alternation. After Louis Saha's scuffed effort dribbled straight at De Gea, Danny Welbeck capped a surging run by blazing over from just outside the area, before Emmanuel Adebayor blasted a 25-yard effort over for the hosts.
The game's first effort of note was executed by Rooney, who