MANCHESTER UNITED staged a sensational second-half fightback against Tottenham to move a step closer to reclaiming the Premier League title.
Darren Bent and Luka Modric had fired Spurs into a 2-0 lead at the break, giving Rafa Benitez’s title chasing Liverpool renewed hope.
But the game swung on 57 minutes, when Heurelho Gomes was adjudged to have brought down Michael Carrick by referee Howard Webb.The decision was a shocker, but Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t care, slotting home from the spot to start the comeback.
Wayne Rooney then kicked into overdrive, firing home twice either side of a second for Ronaldo in a four-minute blitz.
Dimitar Berbatov then prodded home No5 for the home side, to complete a sensational turnaround against his former club.
And with his side now three points clear with a game in hand, Alex Ferguson must surely know his 23rd season will end with his hands on the league championship trophy for the 11th time.
Aaron Lennon started out well, with some probing runs down the right causing problems for the United defence.
The first genuine chance came from the nippy winger, with Bent heading a cross straight at Edwin Van der Sar at the near post.
Spurs were getting physical, with some crunching tackles from Palacios and Jenas in the midfield.
As a result Ronaldo had a sighter at goal from a free kick, the Portuguese star claiming a handball in the wall.
But his appeals were turned down, and soon after Tottenham opened the scoring on 29 minutes courtesy of Bent.
Lennon powered down the right, before his ball back saw Vedran Corluka curl the ball in from a deeper position.
England striker Bent fluffed his headed first attempt, but the ball dropped kindly for him to thrash home from inside six yards.
Worse was to follow for United four minutes later when Lennon swung over another cross from the same flank, this time beyond all the United defenders.
Modric was free to chest the ball down, before stabbing home at the near post.
The visiting fans were almost as stunned as their hosts given Tottenham have not won a league game at Old Trafford since 1989.
Gomes was then called into action three times before the break, as Ferguson’s men looked to get back into the game.
The Brazilian got behind Rafael’s long-range effort, before producing a fine stop from Ronaldo.
Jonathan Woodgate was booked for a foul on the winger, whose free-kick cannoned back off the Spurs wall.
Ronaldo then unleashed a lob towards the top corner, only for Gomes to claw the ball out.
The stopper was also equal to a powerful shot from Rooney before Jermaine Jenas was booked for a foul on Darren Fletcher.
Ferguson introduced Carlos Tevez for Nani at the interval, but it was an intervention from referee Howard Webb that got his side back into the game.
Amid the pandemonium that followed his penalty decison, Ronaldo kept his head to score from the spot.
Tevez then made his first contribution 10 minutes later, setting up Rooney for the equaliser with a flicked pass.
The England striker cut inside before shooting low and beating Gomes at his near post.
Within a minute, United were in front, Rooney this time providing the cross which a diving Ronaldo headed in.
United were not finished as Ronaldo picked out Rooney with a far-post cross.
The England striker beat Gomes but it seemed Woodgate would clear only for the defender to drag the ball over the line as he slid in to block.
United's fifth arrived 11 minutes from time, Rooney providing the cross this time for former Spurs hitman Berbatov to finish.
The Bulgarian belted home after Gomes had stopped his initial header and then got in a tangle with Jenas.