Tottenham netted three times in quick succession to close the gap on first placed Leicester to seven points, having watched the Foxes go 10 clear earlier on Sunday afternoon.
Dele Alli broke the deadlock after 70 minutes, with Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela converting past David De Gea inside the next six minutes.
However, those rapid moments of action in front of goal were not expected given the drab pace of the opening 45. Kick-off was delayed by 30 minutes as the Red Devils arrived late at White Hart Lane, and this slow start appeared to impact upon both sides.
Neither Spurs nor United had an attempt on target before the break, although the hosts should have taken the lead. After an opening 15 minutes, in which Spurs were dominated by the visitors, Christian Eriksen started to impose himself upon the game.
He dinked a perfectly time ball into the penalty area, finding Lamela who was just yards out. However, the Argentine’s glancing header flew past the far post, when it should have nestled in the back of the net.
Louis van Gaal’s men may have dominated the opening stages, but the Lilywhites were growing into the game, showing their usual attacking intent. Still, the first half passed with no goals, and it took 25 minutes of the second period before the deadlock was broken.
The game appeared to be continuing as a stalemate, but teenage midfielder Alli finished from close range to put Spurs in the lead – and get them back in the title race. Playmaker Eriksen had the ball in the left-wing area, and his perfect early cross into the area evaded all the United defenders, with Alli prodding past De Gea at the far post.
The floodgates opened, with Alderweireld doubling the lead four minutes later. Lamela curled a free-kick onto the penalty spot, and the Belgian international jumped highest to head into the back of the net.
It was Lamela who rounded off the victory less than 120 seconds after he had assisted Alderweireld. Danny Rose dragged a low ball into the area, and the Argentine’s first-time finish thundered past De Gea, making up for his earlier miss.
The game was over after those six minutes of intense attacking football, and Spurs eased off, with no fear of capitulating against a United side who looked extremely poor in the final third despite a bright start in North London.