LONDON (AFP) – Manchester United blitzed Leeds 6-2 to climb to third in the Premier League on Sunday as Leicester put a major dent in Tottenham’s title challenge.
The first league battle in 16 years between bitter rivals United and Leeds was keenly anticipated but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men proved far too strong at an empty Old Trafford.
United, who made a stuttering start to the season, now have 26 points – five behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
They are a point adrift of second-placed Leicester, who beat Spurs 2-0 earlier to complete a miserable few days for Jose Mourinho.
United have won all six of their away games in the Premier League this season but had won just one match at home before Sunday.
Leeds were expected to provide a stern examination of United’s rickety defence but Scott McTominay scored the earliest double in Premier League history, putting his side 2-0 up inside three minutes.
Marcelo Bielsa’s determination to play in the same wide-open style no matter the opposition backfired as the visitors were 4-0 down in the 37th minute, with further goals from Bruno Fernandes and Victor Lindelof.
Liam Cooper pulled one back for Leeds late in the first half but United were back on the rampage after the break.
Daniel James made it 5-1 and Fernandes scored his second from the penalty spot before Stuart Dallas reduced the deficit.
A buzzing Solskjaer said the performance was “fantastic” from the first minute.
“Just imagine if there were 75,000 people in, it would have gone down in history as one of the great performances against Leeds,” he told Sky Sports.
“We had to earn the right by running as much as them, that’s a challenge. It could have been 12-4 – It’s that kind of game.”
But the Norwegian refused to get carried away with talk about United’s league position after their sixth win in seven league games.
“We are not even at the halfway point,” he added. “The league position is not something we look at. We look at the improvement of the team.
“Now we are getting fitter and stronger. Our fans needed that one.”
Spurs were top of the table until a last-minute winner for Liverpool gave the champions a 2-1 victory last Wednesday.
They now find themselves all the way back in fifth spot – six points adrift of the champions after a damaging defeat.
Jamie Vardy put away-day specialists Leicester ahead from the penalty spot deep into first-half stoppage time after Serge Aurier barged Wesley Fofana over.
Spurs had a huge escape early in the second half as James Maddison had a goal ruled out for the most marginal of offsides.
But Leicester doubled their lead just before the hour mark via an own goal.
Vardy capitalised on some bad defending by Moussa Sissoko and his header across goal deflected off Toby Alderweireld and into the net.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers described his team, who have won six of their seven away games this season, as “outstanding”.
But he told Sky Sports: “We have to start winning at home. The group is learning all the time and that’s why we’re nowhere near the finished product.”
Mourinho must now lift his team after a miserable few days.
“It is not a good week in terms of results,” said the Spurs boss. “We could be here as the ones that broke Liverpool’s record at Anfield and going into this game on a high.
“We started this game from the low of that disappointment and not getting what we deserved from that match, but Leicester also lost in their last match but came with a positive attitude. It’s a game that we’ve lost with the penalty and the own goal.”
Sam Allardyce’s return to the Premier League as West Brom manager got off to a terrible start as the Baggies were outclassed 3-0 by local rivals Aston Villa, who moved up to ninth.
Anwar El Ghazi put Villa ahead inside five minutes before Jake Livermore’s red card for a lunge on Jack Grealish gave Allardyce’s men a mountain to climb. Dean Smith’s side dominated the entire match but had to wait until six minutes from time to double their lead when Grealish teed up Bertrand Traore for a composed finish before El Ghazi rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot after Grealish had been fouled in the box.
West Brom remain second bottom, three points off safety.
Bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United doubled their points tally for the season but were cruelly denied a first win of the campaign after Brighton’s Danny Welbeck cancelled out Jayden Bogle’s opener in a 1-1 draw.