Two Paul Pogba penalties earned lethargic Manchester United a 2-1 victory over West Ham United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Having lost five of their previous six matches in all competitions, United looked short on confidence early on against West Ham, who had a goal ruled out in the 10th minute when Felipe Anderson was adjudged to be offside when finding the net.
That tight call went United’s way, and soon after they were in front when Pogba hammered home a 19th minute penalty, much to the relief of the home crowd.
Even with the lead, United remained sluggish and did not muster another shot on target for the rest of the first half during which they saw less of the ball than their visitors.
The interval did little to rejuvenate United, with Anderson’s first goal in 14 league games drawing the visitors level just four minutes into the second period.
Michail Antonio twice went close to completing the turnaround for West Ham, but United stole all three points after Pogba again converted from the spot 10 minutes from time.
The win ensured United climbed above Arsenal into fifth place, two points behind Chelsea, while West Ham stayed 11th.
Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham’s 4-0 demolition of Huddersfield could be a key moment in their battle to finish in the Premier League’s top four as Lucas Moura’s hat-trick filled the void left by Harry Kane.
Despite the absence of injured stars Kane and Dele Alli, Pochettino’s much-changed side made it three victories from their first three games at the impressive Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Pochettino’s understudies filled in nicely as Kenya midfielder Victor Wanyama rolled in the opener before Brazilian forward Lucas took centre-stage with an eye-catching treble.
Tottenham have settled well in their new £1 billion north London home and already relegated Huddersfield provided the ideal warm-up for Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg at Manchester City.
Bidding to qualify for next season’s Champions League, Tottenham are one point clear of fourth-placed Chelsea and have the best goal difference of the three teams directly below them.
“It is going to be a very tough race. To score several goals is important. The goal difference can be decisive to achieve the top four at the end,” Pochettino said.
“We have a very tough period. If we approach this period with confidence then we can achieve all the targets we have.”
It was a reassuring afternoon for Tottenham, whose 1-0 quarterfinal first leg win against City on Tuesday came at a heavy cost.
Kane is likely to miss the rest of the season after suffering yet another ankle ligament injury, this time in a tackle on City’s Fabian Delph, while Alli sustained a fractured hand that left him unable to face Huddersfield.
Adding to Pochettino’s problems, England midfielder Harry Winks was ruled out of Saturday’s game with a groin injury.
Pochettino admitted Alli is far from certain to return for the City clash.
“We will see. Today it is difficult to say. He needs to be comfortable to play,” he said.
“Of course it is a little bit painful because he broke two parts of his hand.”
But for all the panic about Kane’s injury potentially ruining Tottenham’s hopes of a successful end to the season, they have won all five of their league games without the England striker this season.
Much sterner tests than Huddersfield lie ahead, including successive Champions League and Premier League matches at City next week, so Pochettino made seven changes, leaving Son Heung-min, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld and Kieran Trippier on the bench.