A blustery winter’s night failed to deter fans from flocking to Wembley for Tottenham’s crucial clash with Manchester United.
A new record Premier League attendance of 81,978 was drawn to the national stadium, but anyone taking their seats late because of the crowds missed a flying start by Spurs.
The build-up to the game had been dominated by the buzz surrounding the visitors’ latest recruit, Alexis Sanchez, with their fans confident the former Arsenal star’s goals and assists would justify his £500,00-a-week wages (plus Henrik Mkhitaryan heading to the Gunners in a swap deal).
But that pre-match optimism was extremely short-lived as Spurs scored straight from the kick-off, stunning United’s sizeable away following into silence.
It took just 11 seconds for Christian Eriksen to get on the end of flicks from Harry Kane and Dele Alli and side-foot home the joint-third fastest goal ever scored in the Premier League.
Spurs seemed to sense that that Jose Mourinho’s men were not at the races after returning to top-flight action following their routine win five days earlier at Yeovil in the FA Cup third round.
United had chances to equalise with Jesse Lingard coming close, however Mauricio Pochettino’s men were attacking at such a pace that it came as no surprise when Phil Jones turned Kieran Trippier’s cross into his own net to double their lead and effectively end the contest with barely 30 minutes on the clock.
Sanchez fails to shine
The United faithful didn’t even have the consolation of seeing Sanchez shine on his Premier League debut for their team.
The Chilean international delivered an anonymous performance, much to the delight of Tottenham’s fans, who gave him the kind of hostile reception they reserve for former Arsenal players.
Of course, Sanchez has yet to gel with his new team-mates, most of whom were similarly below par at Wembley, and the pressure on him to make an immediate impact was unfair.
The former Barcelona star was barely visible as he was continually harried by white shirts.
After a poor opening 45 minutes on the left-hand side, Mourinho sought to change the momentum as he moved the 29-year-old into the number 10 role.
However, the switch came to nothing, as Tottenham’s sturdy defence kept the United’s new acquisition quiet throughout.
So it was a night to forget for United fans, with many leaving well before the final whistle, having seen their team out-played, out-thought and out-fought all over the pitch.
At least they had the consolation of only paying £30 to witness one of the Red Devils’ poorest performances of the season.
In previous campaigns, the cost of watching football – particularly for away fans – has been a hot topic of debate.
However, the Premier League made a breakthrough in 2016 when all 20 clubs agreed to cap away tickets at £30.
To watch Spurs dismantle United, with so many fine players on display on both sides, for that price was a bargain.
Whether the massive outlay invested in bringing Sanchez to Old Trafford ultimately comes to be viewed as value for money is another matter.
United’s defeat leaves them 15 points adrift of rivals Manchester City, with Mourinho admitting the title is now out of reach. Spurs moved to within two points of the top four.