Tottenham eased the pressure to an extent on manager Andre Villas-Boas with a 2-2 home draw with Manchester United.
Talk has swirled as to Villas-Boas' position at the club, while he has not been helped by results and performances in recent weeks. But White Hart Lane was treated to a cracker on Sunday, as United were pushed hard and had to come from behind on two occasions.
Spurs made an extremely bright start and had a big chance on six minutes after slicing open United, but a heavy touch from Kyle Walker ruined the move.
United weathered the early pressure and threatened the Spurs goal on 15 minutes, but a brilliant block from Sandro denied Wayne Rooney.
The visitors were rocked on 19 minutes when Walker opened the scoring with a low free-kick that went under the United wall.
Spurs had chances to deliver a knockout blow to United. The best of the openings fell to Roberto Soldado, who exchanged passes with Paulinho, but he fired his shot from 10 yards wildly wide of the target.
And within seconds of David de Gea denying Aaron Lennon, United drew level.
A cross ricocheted off the unfortunate Walker and fell into the path of Rooney. He has been in sizzling form all season and gobbled up the chance.
Spurs have been accused of starving their fans of action this season. White Hart Lane witnessed plenty of quality on Sunday, nothing better than Sandro’s goal on 54 minutes.
Sandro is better known for his work in protecting his defence, but the midfielder has an eye for goal, and he crashed a shot from almost 30 yards that flew into the top corner.
The lead did not last long, though. Hugo Lloris had a shocker in the 6-0 loss to Manchester City last week, and the keeper brought down Danny Welbeck in the box to gift United a penalty.
Rooney was in no mood to pass up the chance, and he slammed the penalty down the middle and beyond Lloris.
Villas-Boas removed Lennon, and his substitution was greeted with a chorus of boos, but the manager could justify his decision with the help of Squawka.
Aaron Lennon didn't complete or attempt a single pass in the second half before he was substituted.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 1, 2013
Neither side could fashion a winner, but the Spurs faithful can be heartened by the display one week after the mauling by City.
The Brazilian produced an all-action display and was influential in all areas. He put his body on the line early on by throwing himself in the path of a Rooney shot.
That typified his efforts in protecting his defence, but he also produced a moment of class with a quite stunning strike for Spurs’ second goal.
Wayne Rooney: A
Robin van Persie carried the attacking threat for United last season. This season, it’s been all about Rooney.
He was a threat all afternoon and clinically pounced on a loose ball for his first goal and slammed home a penalty for his second. Rooney also helped out with some key headers in defensive areas, which capped a brilliant all-round performance.
Rooney gave an interview to broadcaster BT Sport immediately after the game, and he felt a draw was the right result.
We did not start the game too well. We gave away a sloppy goal and made it difficult for ourselves, but we got back in and played some decent stuff.
We had to regroup but got the goal early on, and I think the 2-2 was a fair result.
Assessing his own performance, Rooney said:
I am confident and playing well, but that is down to my team-mates. Valencia has come in and been fantastic. There are so many players playing well, and I am just trying to do my job.
United are nine points behind Arsenal in the title race, and Rooney feels United need to turn draws into wins.
We are on a good run at the minute, but we have to turn some of the draws into wins.
Today is probably a good point in the end, but it is the other games where we need to turn one point into three, and that will make a massive difference.