Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s first Premier League goal earned Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United a much-needed 1-0 victory over high-flying Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The Armenian, who was carried off on a stretcher with 10 minutes remaining after a heavy tackle by Danny Rose left him clutching his ankle, blasted home on 29 minutes after Ander Herrera intercepted a sloppy Harry Kane pass in midfield.
Herrera fed the ball through and Mkhitaryan, a 25 million pounds ($31.43 million) close-season buy from Borussia Dortmund who was left out in the cold earlier in the campaign, did the rest with a rocket of a shot over keeper Hugo Lloris.
The unmarked Victor Wanyama missed a good chance to grab an equaliser for Spurs following a free kick in the 56th minute, his header going inexplicably wide at the back post, while Paul Pogba struck the woodwork for United in the 64th.
The hosts remained sixth with 24 points, three behind fifth-placed Tottenham who might otherwise have overtaken Manchester City -- beaten 4-2 at champions Leicester City on Saturday -- on goal difference.
United remain one of the two current Premier League teams that Kane, last season’s top marksman, has yet to score against and the England forward offered little in the way of danger despite Tottenham having plenty of possession.
The victory was United’s first at home in the league since September and ended a run of three games without a win in the top flight.
“It’s an important win against a very good team,” Mourinho told Sky Sports television.
“We didn’t deserve to spend the last 10 or 15 minutes with our hearts in hands ... (but) at this moment 1-0 is magic because we needed the points.”
The Portuguese played down Mkhitaryan’s injury, saying it looked more serious than it was and that the midfielder could be out for a week.
“Maximum a couple of weeks. It doesn’t look like something that is very dangerous or difficult. He brings everything I want an attacker to play. Maybe one week out and it is better to be fresh for Boxing Day (Dec. 26),” he said.
($1 = 0.7954 pounds)
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tony Jimenez