Tottenham twice pegged back Manchester United to deny Erik ten Hag’s men victory as Sir Jim Ratcliffe attended his first match since agreeing a partial takeover of the club.
The billionaire’s agreement to buy a 25 per cent stake and take control of football operations has brought some hope to a club that has fallen off the top of the English game under owners the Glazers.
But it is a long way back and fans will continue to protest the Americans’ involvement, no matter how diminished, with Ratcliffe getting a first-hand look at the challenge he is taking on in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Spurs.
The 71-year-old, who grew up supporting United, sat next to Sir Alex Ferguson in the directors’ box at Old Trafford and only had to wait three minutes to celebrate as summer signing Rasmus Hojlund hammered home.
Ange Postecoglou’s visitors looked most likely to win it but United avoided a 10th Premier League loss of the season in front of Ratcliffe and his INEOS team.
Things had got off to an ideal start from a United perspective.
The skipper put Rashford behind to drive forward and then cut inside, with Destiny Udogie’s eventual challenge taking the ball into Hojlund’s path rather than halting the counter.
The 20-year-old Dane moved the ball away from Spurs defenders, steadied himself with another touch before thundering a left-footed drive into the roof of the net.
Rasmus Hojlund scores with his first touch of the match!
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 14, 2024
Rashford tried to add a second when meeting a deep Christian Eriksen corner with an unorthodox volley across goal, but Spurs soon awoke from their slumber.
Diogo Dalot cleared Bentancur’s header from the resulting set-piece off the line, but another corner would prove United’s undoing in the 19th minute.
Porro swung in from the left and Richarlison showed strength in a congested six-yard box to glance home, extending Spurs scoring run in the league to a club-record 33rd game.
Play settled for a while, only for United to kick on towards the break.
Garnacho’s penalty appeals against Udogie fell on deaf ears but the Spurs left-back was soon breathing a sigh of relief after heading a Rashford cross onto his own post.
United’s pressure continued and brought about a 40th-minute goal.
Rashford played a one-two with Hojlund around the edge of the 18-yard box, then followed a touch with a low snapshot into the bottom corner.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 14, 2024
The England forward made a talking gesture with his hand as he celebrated – seemingly a message for those questioning him.
Rashford was blocked out as he attempted to add another but Spurs went close in stoppage time, with Romero launching himself to meet a corner and sending a header crashing off the bar.
Postecoglou’s side were not discouraged by that near miss and drew level moments into the second half.
Werner held the ball up on the left and played across to Bentancur, who drove into the box, past Evans and continued to slam Spurs level.
It was a gut punch Tottenham were determined to add to.
Richarlison forced a low save out of Onana and Werner hooked over as the visitors looked most likely to score, but they could not capitalise on their boatload of set-pieces.
Ten Hag made a pair of changes in quick succession to change the dynamics.
The first, Scott McTominay, drove narrowly wide from 20 yards after replacing Eriksen, before Lisandro Martinez came on for his first appearance since September.
Spurs introduced January arrival Radu Dragusin as the match wound down, with McTominay heading over at the end of five minutes stoppage time.