Sir Alex Ferguson's men powered past an injury-depleted Spurs side to further extend their lead over the home side and ensure the title battle will be a two-horse race
An uneventful first half was dominated by a disallowed Spurs goal, Emmanuel Adebayor controversially judged to have handled prior to finding the net, before Wayne Rooney headed home from a corner moments before the whistle.
Despite not being at the top of their game, United pushed clear after the interval, Ashley Young catching the eye first with a well-taken volley from a tough angle and then a delightful finish from outside the area to double his tally. Jermain Defoe netted a late consolation having capitalised upon a loose pass.
Neither Gareth Bale nor Rafael van der Vaart were available for the home side, with Sandro, Aaron Lennon and Jake Livermore coming into the midfield with Scott Parker suspended. Louis Saha, meanwhile, started against his former club.
Rooney recovered sufficiently from a throat infection to return to the visitors’ starting XI in place of Javier Hernandez and Young was the other alteration from United’s defeat of Norwich, replacing Ryan Giggs.
The two sides traded blows evenly in the opening exchanges, Danny Welbeck and Adebayor both firing over the bar.
With shots scarce early on, David de Gea did have to make a key save near the 20-minute mark from Adebayor, having caused the chance himself with a poor clearance that was easily intercepted by Sandro.
With neither side grabbing full control of the match, Tottenham earned a promising free-kick as Jones dragged down Saha just outside the area, but Younes Kaboul’s curling effort came to nothing.
The home side, starting to dominate, had the ball in the net in the 37th minute. Lennon’s enterprising run inside the area from the left wing forged a chance for Adebayor, who received the ball via Saha’s effort and bundled it into the net from close-range.
But just as the home fans were celebrating, referee Martin Atkinson ruled it out on grounds of the Togolese handballing as the ball reached him.
Despite a period on the back foot, United edged in front just before half-time through a simple goal. The Red Devils having earned a corner, Young delivered an in-swinger from the left and Rooney’s impressive off-the-ball movement coupled with strength to hold off Kyle Walker allowed him to head home for a 1-0 lead.
Spurs resumed probing after the break and came close when Livermore’s rasping shot took a thin deflection off Saha’s leg to threaten De Gea, but the Spaniard reacted sharply to get low down and block impressively with his arm.
Tottenham kept coming and Benoit Assou-Ekotto was next to get sight of goal, whipping in a free kick from the right flank that swerved and dipped but just cleared the bar.
Yet, despite being second best for the early stages of the half, United stretched their lead a minute later.
Luka Modric’s lazy marking let Nani through in space on the right bye-line from a throw-in and the Portuguese played the ball across the area. It broke to Young just past the far post who had a difficult angle but still volleyed low, evading a small crowd and creeping into the far corner of the net.
Spurs looked to riposte, Lennon carving some room once again, but, receiving the ball with time to volley, Assou-Ekotto limply struck the ball utterly wayward.
White Hart Lane was in shock and it only got worse for the north Londoners as Young picked the ball up a little way outside the area. The England winger pushed inside a little to get sight of the net and struck, placing his shot with delightful precision into the top-right corner.
Harry Redknapp's side seemed to accept that matters were settled and the game drifted in the final 15 minutes, the away fans crowing loudly over the subdued Tottenham supporters.
There was, however, a late consolation. With 86 minutes gone, the United defence seemed to switch off and substitute Giggs' lax pass into nowhere allowed fellow replacement Defoe to run on and dispatch an uncomplicated finish past De Gea from the edge of the box.
Spurs had no time for an accompanying late rally, however, and the final whistle soon confirmed the setback that left any remaining title hopes very distant indeed.