Five things we learned as Manchester United beat Tottenham 3-0

Manchester United got a much-needed victory against Tottenham.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning volley in the first half before Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford struck to seal all three points in north London.

Here is a look at five things we learned from the game…

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Solskjaer switches system

When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team news was announced, it was perhaps a surprise to see only two changes from the humiliation against Liverpool.

Edinson Cavani and Raphael Varane came into the side to add experience but the big alteration was the switch in formation.

Solskjaer went with a 3-5-2 system, with Cavani and Ronaldo together up front and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw as wing-backs.

Given the links with Antonio Conte, who tends to prefer a three-man defence, it was interesting to see Solskjaer decide that was the answer to his predicament.

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United sit off

United’s pressing came under the microscope after the Liverpool game and that defeat was not the first time it had lacked cohesion and intent this season.

Solskjaer’s response was to get United to sit off, being compact and harder to break down.

That is the approach that has produced many of United’s best performances under Solskjaer.

On the only occasion in the first half that United did press high, visibly led by Bruno Fernandes, Son Heung-min broke in behind, but was narrowly offside.

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Ronaldo delivers with the pressure on

Ronaldo has already dug Solskjaer out of a hole twice in the Champions League this season.

And with the pressure on more than ever, Ronaldo produced a moment of pure magic to break the game open.

His movement to get away from Ben Davies was expert and the volley which followed was sensational.

Any goal would have done for United in a game of this importance but to score such a stunner was a mark of Ronaldo’s quality and reliability when it really matters.

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Cavani grabs his chance

This was Cavani’s second Premier League start of the season, and when he missed United’s best two chances of the first half, he might have worried it was not to be his day.

But on 64 minutes, Cavani latched onto a fantastic Ronaldo pass and his first touch took the ball away from Hugo Lloris.

From there, the finish was simple and Cavani showed his class to take his opportunity to shine.

It remains to be seen whether Solskjaer sticks with the strike partnership, but there were promising signs here.

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United are still fighting

This was not the performance of a team who have given up on their manager.

That is faint praise, but after a week of reports about dressing room unrest, it was important to see that the United players are still fighting for Solskjaer.

Two more huge games lie ahead for United this week, and it could be argued that the opponents get incrementally tougher.

The hard work and togetherness on show here is the absolute minimum United need to get results against Atalanta and Manchester City.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.