Mike Phelan waved his arms like a cartoon character trying to fly. "United! United! United!" they roared. The hairs curled and the chanting segued into renditions of more spirited cries from the Manchester United songbook. United took off.

At a club that has felt rather soulless at times in recent memory, United stirred the soul. There are nights where Old Trafford's hokey nickname are merited and this was another entrant. Aaron Wan-Bissaka's 94th minute sliding tackle was celebrated as though it had secured victory. It had.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer possibly stopped short of running onto the pitch to hug his players. He congratulated all of them; as did Jose Mourinho, beaten at Old Trafford by United for only the third time.

There was a taste of the theatrical from United players' apparent aversion to Mourinho prior to kick-off and they then played like a dream. The United support is at its best amid defiance and the uncertainty surrounding their manager elicited responses on the terraces and the pitch.

They cowed a renascent Tottenham in a blistering first 30 minutes. United played with an identity; pace, youth and width. Sir Alex Ferguson, sat stoically on Sunday, was more expressive as the United players expressed themselves. That was the go-to instruction of Ferguson.

Marcus Rashford scored and took paint off the woodwork, Paulo Gazzaniga thwarted him and Mason Greenwood and a Jesse Lingard effort flew past the upright. Such is the United Way, they did not make it easy for themselves.

Silk and steel returned to the midfield, where Scott McTominay improved the team and teammates. Rashford, that other torch-bearer for the academy, mimicked Cristiano Ronaldo and Greenwood was as fast and fluid as the attack on his first meaningful league start. Lingard, stencilled onto the academy walls at Carrington, enhanced the attack through selflessness and Fred celebrated his denial of Son Heung-Min.

The Stretford End rocked to McTominay's name following some gamesmanship that vexed Mourinho, irate at the time-wasting. He taught McTominay well, alas there was no explicit appreciation for the former manager, for it is now 'Solskjaer's Red and White Army'. McTominay embraced Mourinho at full-time.

Rashford's cheerleading in front of the J Stand lifted the gloom and nearly the roof. It set the tone for one of Solskjaer's most satisfactory days since his Manchester homecoming last December. Despite the blemish of Dele Alli's elegant equaliser, this was the standout performance of the season, given the occasion and opposition.

Solskjaer is in a similar situation to Louis van Gaal four years ago, with an enticing coach available, and the two share similar big-game nous. Solskjaer has not lost to any of the sides above United in the table and they are the only team to have avoided defeat to the imperious Liverpool. The Tottenhams of Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino have both been vanquished.

United players' own commitment to their manager was patent. They delayed their emergence into the tunnel, as if they wanted to avoid any interaction for their manager, who decided to hang back. There was no 'Jose Mourinho' rendition from the Stretford End and Solskjaer was raucously greeted, having tactfully entered the pitch last, which only intensified appreciation for the club legend. His name reverberated around all four stands seven minutes in.

Solskjaer has demanded Rashford chip in with unspectacular goals and his 11th club goal of the campaign was just that thanks to the porous Gazzaniga. Rashford's goalscoring record against the elite in under four years is striking and this season alone he has four against Chelsea, put one past Spurs and Liverpool and managed an assist against Arsenal. His Ronaldo technique was almost perfected with a stinging strike that smacked the crossbar in the 24th minute.

Tottenham had expected United to switch to a back three upon learning the leaked news of Anthony Martial's injury on Tuesday night. Solskjaer resisted, retained the same 4-2-3-1 formation with Greenwood the wild card pick on his first meaningful league start. The element of surprise threw a rigid Tottenham and for 39 minutes United played their finest football maybe all year.

Rashford was immense

The sole gripe was United were only 1-0 up and that was the problem. Alli innovatively flicked the ball over Fred and Ashley Young and connected clinically to inflict a familiar feeling on United, who had led in six league games that ended in a stalemate.  Rashford endeavoured to prevent a seventh within seconds of the restart, bypassing Serge Aurier before being clipped by the clumsy Moussa Sissoko. Rashford, like Ronaldo, assumed responsibility from 12 yards and broke his penalty pattern: scored, missed, scored, missed, scored, scored.

Some began to tire and Solskjaer checked on the flagging Lingard, an improvement on his playmaking competitors in his first league start in over two months. Andreas Pereira eventually emerged and United, with their backs against the wall, had the crowd behind them. Ferguson looked anxious. Squeaky bum time, he called it.

The hairs curled again at full-time.